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Preview: Predators at Stars

Nashville eyeing third place in Central; Dallas' young players look for strong finish

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

PREDATORS (40-28-12) at STARS (33-36-11)

8:30 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-SW, NHL.TV 


Predators team scope

The Nashville Predators trail the St. Louis Blues by one point for third place in the Central Division and are tied with Calgary Flames for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Blues will clinch third in the division with a win against the Florida Panthers in any fashion and a Predators loss to the Dallas Stars; the Flames will clinch the first wild card with a win against the Los Angeles Kings and a loss by the Predators in regulation. "We can catch St. Louis, we can move up in the wild card, and we want to do that," forward PA Parenteau said. "We want to put ourselves in the best position for Game 1 (of the Western Conference First Round)." Forward James Neal will return to the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury. Center Mike Fisher, defenseman Ryan Ellis and forward Cody McLeod stayed late after the morning skate and appear to be getting a rest before the playoffs. Goaltender Juuse Saros will start; he made 21 saves in a 4-1 loss to the Blues on Sunday.


Stars team scope

Goaltender Antti Niemi will make back-to-back starts for the Dallas Stars; he made 24 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. The Stars are relying heavily on younger players and call-ups from the American Hockey League to finish the season. "It's a good chance to play games like this," rookie forward Jason Dickinson said. "You'd like to be playing in something that meant more for our team. But it's a good chance against a playoff team." Dickinson and rookie defenseman Julius Honka each scored against Arizona. "I think it's an opportunity to showcase what they got," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think sometimes when you're called up and given a bigger opportunity and you're playing with some premier players, you can look better than you have at the American League level." The Stars are looking for redemption after losing 5-3 to Nashville on Feb. 12; Dallas led 3-0 in the first period before allowing five straight goals. 


Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- James Neal

Colin Wilson -- Colton Sissons -- Craig Smith

Viktor Arvidsson -- Calle Jarnkrok -- PA Parenteau

Kevin Fiala -- Vernon Fiddler -- Miikka Salomaki

Roman Josi -- Brad Hunt

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Anthony Bitetto -- Matt Irwin

Juuse Saros

Pekka Rinne

Scratched: Mike Fisher, Cody McLeod, Ryan Ellis, Austin Watson, Harry Zolnierczyk

Injured: Yannick Weber (upper body)


Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn -- Cody Eakin -- Devin Shore

Remi Elie -- Tyler Seguin -- Brett Ritchie

Gemel Smith -- Radek Faksa -- Jason Spezza

Jason Dickinson -- Justin Dowling -- Adam Cracknell

Esa Lindell -- John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis -- Julius Honka

Jamie Oleksiak -- Stephen Johns

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Greg Pateryn

Injured: Mattias Janmark (knee), Antoine Roussel (hand), Curtis McKenzie (eye), Jiri Hudler (groin), Ales Hemsky (hip)


Status report

The Stars had an optional morning skate. … The Predators didn't do line rushes, and Laviolette didn't confirm scratches.


Who's hot

Smith has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his past eight games. … Spezza has four points (two goals, two assists) in a three-game point streak and nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past nine games.


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