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Stars host Predators to begin busy end to season

by John Kreiser

PREDATORS (32-31-11) at STARS (34-27-11)


Last 10: Nashville 6-3-1; Dallas 5-4-1

Season series: It's the fourth of five games between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, who meet again at American Airlines Center on April 8. The home team has won each of the first three, with the Predators taking both games in Nashville and the Stars winning 4-1 at home Dec. 27.

Big story: This is a must-win game for the Stars, who trail the Phoenix Coyotes by five points and the Minnesota Wild by six in the battle for the two Western Conference wild-card spots into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nashville is still mathematically alive after demolishing the Buffalo Sabres 6-1 at home Thursday, but enters the night nine points back of Phoenix with eight games remaining.

Team Scope:

Predators: To have any hope of a late run to the playoffs, the Predators knew they had to take care of business against the last-place Sabres on Thursday night. They did just that, scoring four times in the first period and coasting to a rare blowout victory.

If the Predators don't rally to make the postseason, they can blame their inability to win at home. They are 16-17-5 at Bridgestone Arena, and the victory against the Sabres snapped an 0-5-1 slide.

"We talked about that the last few games is we've got to play better at home," captain Shea Weber after scoring twice to reach the 20-goal mark. "We've always been a team in the past that takes pride in winning at home and we haven't done that lately, so we need to change that."

Stars: Dallas practiced Thursday after taking off Wednesday. The Stars may not get many more chances to rest; the game against Nashville begins a season-ending stretch of 10 games in 17 days.

All the Stars could do the past couple of nights is watch the scoreboard -- whether they wanted to or not.

"It's tough not to," defenseman Brenden Dillon told the Stars website. "After a game the first thing you do is get on your phone and check the game center to see what some of the game scores were. It's the last sprint to the finish, and every point is important, and every game is important. You'd like to get some help from certain teams, but you want to take care of yourself."

Who's hot: Weber has scored two goals twice in his past four games for Nashville. … Dallas center Tyler Seguin has six goals and 11 assists during a 10-game point streak.

Injury report: Nashville defenseman Seth Jones (concussion), right wingPatrick Eaves (lower body) and center Paul Gaustad (upper body) are day-to-day. … Dallas left wing Ray Whitney (illness) is doubtful, and left wing Erik Cole (upper body) won't play. Center Rich Peverley (cardiac) won't be back this season.

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