PREDATORS (2-2-0) at STARS (1-0-3)
Season series -- This is the second of four meetings this season between these clubs. On Oct. 3, the Predators earned a 3-2 shootout victory in Dallas in the season-opener for both teams. James Neal of Dallas scored twice, the second early in the third period to tie the score at 2-2. Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan scored for Nashville, and Mike Santorelli scored the game-deciding shootout goal. Predators goaltender Dan Ellis made 38 saves for the win, and Marty Turco had 24 saves for the Stars. The Stars headed to Western Canada after that, meaning that their first two home games are both against Nashville.
Big story -- These are two Western Conference clubs that missed the postseason in 2008-09 and are fighting for respectability, though that climb for both franchises has been slow going early on. Nashville won its first two but dropped its next two, both at home. The Stars went 1-0-2 in a three-game swing through Western Canada, losing 4-3 in a shootout at Vancouver on Sunday.
Predators -- According to a schedule announced earlier this week by coach Barry Trotz, Ellis gets the start in goal; another solid performance may begin to bring more playing time his way and perhaps a clear hold on the No. 1 job. Ellis is 2-0-0 with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. His latest action came in relief of teammate Pekka Rinne (0-2-0, 3.80 GAA, .902 SP), who allowed four goals on nine shots in a 6-1 home loss against Edmonton on Monday. Ellis came on at the start of the second period and stopped nine of 11 shots in a no-decision.
The Predators have scored only 7 goals in four games, next-to-last behind Buffalo (4). Arnott (3 goals) and Patric Hornqvist (2) account for five of those tallies.
Stars -- Rookie Jamie Benn was hot in the preseason (4 goals in five games) and his play has carried over with a goal and 3 points through four games.
Dallas is outshooting the opposition by an average of 34.8 to 24.5, but its 14 goals scored are only eighth in the Western Conference because the Stars have played just four games. They are averaging 3.5 goals per game and 14 different players have at least one point.
The biggest downside for Dallas is three shootout losses -- to Nashville, Edmonton and Vancouver. "We're not going to panic," Turco told the Dallas Morning News. "We know there are areas we can improve, and we'll work on those for sure. … We know we can work it out."
Who's hot -- Center Brad Richards has points in all four games for the Stars, and has scored a goal and an assist in each of the last two games. Center Mike Ribeiro has points in three consecutive games and 2 points in each of the last two. Left wing Brenden Morrow has two multi-point games -- a 2-1-3 performance against Edmonton and a 0-2-2 showing against Vancouver. Arnott and Hornqvist each had points in three of Nashville's four games.
Injury report -- For Dallas, center Mike Modano is day-to-day with a rib injury. Also, center Steve Ott pulled an oblique muscle and left Sunday's game in the first period. For the Predators, right wing Jordin Tootoo is on injured reserve with a bad groin, and right wing J.P. Dumont is day-to-day with body soreness.
Stat pack -- Ribeiro has two consecutive seasons with at least 20 goals and 50 assists. The only other NHL players with the same stats in that span are Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, San Jose's Joe Thornton and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis.
Puck drop -- "It's a big week," Morrow, the team captain, told the Dallas Morning News as the Stars begin a two-game homestand. "We have some things to work on."
-- Rocky Bonanno, NHL.com