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Game Day: Stars vs. Preds

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(37-31-10) Dallas Stars vs. Nashville Predators (47-22-9)
  7 P.M. | Bridgestone Arena
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Nissan Pregame: 6:30 P.M.
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After three days between contests, the Nashville Predators return to Bridgestone Arena ice tonight to host the Dallas Stars in what is the second-to-last home game of the season.

Nashville is a perfect 3-0-0 against the Stars to this point in the season, with tonight marking the fourth of fifth meetings between the two clubs on the campaign. The final outing comes on April 11 in Dallas to conclude the regular season.

The Preds fell 5-4 in a shootout to Vancouver on Tuesday, while the Stars lost 7-5 to the St. Louis Blues last night.

Cody Franson tallied his first goal since joining the Preds in February on Tuesday night against the Canucks. Tuesday’s goal came 1,420 days after Franson had last scored for Nashville on May 5, 2011 – in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinal, also against Vancouver.

On the season, the Sicamous, B.C., native has 17 power-play points (5g-12a) to rank within the Top 20 in the category among all NHL defensemen. His five power-play goals tie him for the ninth spot among League blueliners, a tie he shares with teammate Shea Weber. Franson’s 173 hits are the 17th most among NHL defensemen.

Mike Ribeiro, who has six points (2g-4a) in his last five games, leads the Preds in points (15g-45a-60pts) and is the first Nashville players to hit the 60-point mark since the 2008-09 season (J-P Dumont, 65). Ribeiro’s 45 assists tie him for ninth among all League skaters and is tied for the fourth-highest total of his career (most since 2011-12 with Dallas). The former Stars forward is just one assist away from 500 for his NHL career.

Roman Josi played past the 30-minute mark (30:16) for the fifth time this season on Tuesday against Vancouver, leading Nashville in the category and playing more than five minutes more than the next highest player (Seth Jones, 24:51). On the season, Josi averages 26:28 time on ice, first on the Preds and fourth overall in the NHL.

In the past nine games, Josi has recorded eight points (4g-4a) to move him into third among all League blueliners in points (15g-40a-55pts) and first among Nashville defensemen. He is one point from tying current teammate and defensive partner Shea Weber for most points by a Nashville blueliner (23g-33a-56pts, 2013-14) and two assists from tying Kimmo Timonen for most assists by a defenseman (42, 2006-07) in franchise history.

Filip Forsberg, who has 14 multi-point games this season, is second on the Preds and among League rookies in points this season (23g-36a-59pts). Forsberg leads rookies in shots (222) and power-play assists (tied, 13), and is second in assists (36) and power-play points (19).

Pekka Rinne is tied for first in the NHL in wins (41) and is among the League leaders in both goals-against average (2.13) and save percentage (.925). Rinne has four shutouts this season (March 21 vs. Buffalo, Dec. 9 at Colorado, Nov. 27 vs. Edmonton and Oct. 17 at Winnipeg), giving him the third-most shutouts of any NHL goaltender since the start of the 2008-09 season behind Henrik Lundqvist (38) and Jonathan Quick (27).

The Stars are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, but they've still got plenty of firepower up front. Jamie Benn (77 pts) and Tyler Seguin (73 pts) lead the team in scoring, including 36 goals for Seguin. Jason Spezza follows up with 42 assists and 59 points on the campaign.

Kari Lehtonen sees the bulk of the work in net, posting a 34-16-10 record on the season with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. Backup netminder Jhonas Enroth, acquired in February from Buffalo, has just one win in his eight appearances with Dallas.

The Predators have not faced a fellow Central Division team for more than two weeks, last meeting up with the Minnesota Wild in Nashville on March 17, one of just two Central Division games for Nashville in the month of March. Overall this season, the Preds are 15-7-3 against the Central Division and 9-4-0 against intra-divisional foes on home ice.

Saturday’s game against Dallas is the first of four consecutive Central Division games the Preds will play to close out the 2014-15 regular season. On Tuesday, Nashville travels to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche, the first Central Division road game for the team since Jan. 30, which was also at Colorado’s Pepsi Center. The final two games take place Thursday in Nashville against Minnesota and next Saturday in Dallas.

With four games remaining in the regular season, Nashville is seven points shy of tying the franchise record for most points in a season, which was set by the 2006-07 squad (110 pts, 51-23-8). Nashville is four games short of the franchise record for most wins (51), a mark also set by the 2006-07 team.

The Preds are 28-32-(1)-2 all-time against the Stars and 19-12-(1)-0 on home ice. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Nashville has taken home points in 10 of 15 match-ups against this Central Division rival.

Predators Game Day Video:

Preds Players: Mike Fisher, Roman Josi and Taylor Beck


What to Watch for: Brent and Willy's Breakdown


Coach Presser: Head Coach Peter Laviolette



Morning Skate Update:

The Preds held a morning skate at Bridgestone Arena prior to this evening's contest with Dallas. Defenseman Shea Weber and forwards James Neal and Matt Cullen, who have all been out with injuries, participated in the skate and Head Coach Peter Laviolette expects them to return to the Nashville lineup tonight.

Forwards Paul Gaustad (upper-body) and Eric Nystrom (lower-body) did not skate this morning.

Nashville Morning Skate Lines:

Forwards:


Forsberg - Ribeiro - Neal

Wilson - Fisher - Smith

Stalberg - Cullen - Santorelli

Bourque - Jarnkrok - Beck

Defensemen:

Josi - Weber

Ekholm - Jones

Ellis - Franson

Volchenkov - Bartley

Goaltenders:

Pekka Rinne*

Carter Hutton

*Probable Starter


Dallas Projected Lines:

Forwards:


Benn - Seguin - Nichushkin

Eaves - Spezza - Hemsky

Roussel - Eakin - Garbutt

Moen - Fiddler - Sceviour

Defensemen:

Goligoski - Klingberg

Nemeth - Daley

Jokipakka - Demers

Goaltenders:

Jhonas Enroth*

Kari Lehtonen

*Projected Starter
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