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Predators get another chance to clinch playoff berth

Nashville in with win and regulation loss by Avalanche

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com Correspondent

PREDATORS (39-24-13) AT STARS (45-22-9)

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-SW, NHL.TV

DALLAS-- The Nashville Predators will clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a win against the Dallas Stars in any fashion and if the Colorado Avalanche lose to the St. Louis Blues in regulation on Tuesday.

The Predators failed to clinch after a 4-3 loss to the Avalanche on Monday and did not skate Tuesday.

"We're just worried about the two points," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "That's all we've talked about. We haven't talked about division or opponents or nothing, just the two points at hand."

Goalie Pekka Rinne will likely start for the Predators. Rinne was pulled in the first period Monday after allowing three goals on 10 shots against Colorado.

The Stars (99 points) are tied with the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Western Conference, but own the tiebreaker because they have 43 regulation/overtime wins (ROW) compared to the Blues' 40. Dallas clinched a playoff berth with a 6-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 22.

"They're a top team in the Western Conference and we know we got our hands full. They got a lot of weapons," Laviolette said. "They're capable of hurting you in a lot of different ways. We're going to have to be good defensively, layer properly and make good decisions with the puck so they don't counterattack."

Dallas, who has won four of its past five games, held an optional morning skate. Goalie Kari Lehtonen will start for the 10th time in the past 12 games.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said defenseman Kris Russell (lower body), who has missed the past three games, will not play Tuesday against Nashville and Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes.

"He's still not in the right place and we just feel we have a luxury of making sure that he's right before we stick him out there," Ruff said. "He's practiced with us three or four times, he could play but we just feel the smart thing is to keep him off."

Ruff is keeping his forward lines and defensive pairs identical from a 4-2 win at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. 

Here are the projected lineups:

PREDATORS

Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - James Neal

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Viktor Arvidsson

Eric Nystrom - Colton Sissons - Miikka Salomaki

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Petter Granberg

Barret Jackman - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Injured: Anthony Bitetto (lower body), Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Paul Gaustad (upper body)

Scratched: Austin Watson.

STARS

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Sharp

Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky

Colton Sceviour - Vernon Fiddler - Patrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns

Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Injured: Jason Demers (shoulder), Brett Ritchie (lower body), Kris Russell (lower body), Tyler Seguin (Achilles)

Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak

Status report: Laviolette said there are no further updates on Bitetto (lower body), Bourque (upper body) and Gaustad (upper body). … Demers (shoulder) skated Monday but was limited. He will be evaluated again at the beginning of next week. 

Who's hot: Neal has five points (three goals) in his past four games. … Rinne is 12-1-3 in his past 17 games. … Jamie Benn, second in the NHL with 83 points and third with 37 goals, has 21 points (13 assists) in 26 games against Nashville. … Klingberg has six assists in six games against the Predators. … Spezza has 16 points (10 assists) in 16 games against Nashville. 

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