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Preds Ready for Next Chapter of Rivalry with Stars

Saturday Marks First Meeting Between Nashville and Dallas Since 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Preview of 2020 NHL Winter Classic

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

The rivalry between Dallas and Nashville has undoubtedly matured over the years.

First, the Predators and Stars are Central Division foes. That's a start. Now add in their first-ever meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring - a Round One series that saw Dallas win Game 6 in overtime to force a handshake line - and the intensity starts to escalate.

Oh, and you may have heard of that whole outdoor game that's coming on New Year's Day.

Indeed, contests between the Preds and Stars, two teams who believe they have what it takes to seriously compete for the League's ultimate prize, have seen the disdain for one another increase in recent years.

With that in mind, Saturday evening's outing at Bridgestone Arena - the first visit between the two clubs since their series last April, and the appetizer to the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl - carries more weight than a typical December game.

"There's a little bit more, just with playoff series last year and kind of where everything sits in the standings," Preds forward Austin Watson said. "They're a team that's ahead of us, and we've got an opportunity to take two points away from them in a head-to-head game. And then with the Winter Classic and it being our first meeting of the year, it's a big game for us tomorrow."

Video: Watson, Josi preview Dallas

In past years, games against teams like Chicago and Anaheim - franchises the Predators have seen in the postseason on numerous occasions - always seem to have that extra snarl to them. Every team in the Western Conference sees one another at least three times in the season, but once a couple of dance partners get together in the springtime, the dislike is bound to ratchet up.

The Stars-Predators rivalry has hit that point, and not only will both clubs want to set a tone before they take things outside, but it's simply a bit easier to get up to play a team that that got in the way of the ultimate goal just a few months earlier.

"With the playoffs last year, it was a tight series, and I think every time you play a team in the playoffs, there's so many little rivalries formed within the within the team," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "It's definitely a big rivalry, so I'm sure it'll be an exciting one tomorrow."

"It was always kind of there… but over the last couple of years, and especially whenever you get a playoff series against the team, [that grows the rivalry]," Watson said. "The same thing kind of happened with Anaheim there. We have a couple of playoff series and things intensify a little bit. We haven't seen [the Stars] yet this year, but I can only assume that all that kind of stuff is going to be a big part of it."

Friday's practice in Nashville also brought the Predators one step closer to the NHL Winter Classic, as players tried out the gloves and pants they'll be wearing during the League's marquee outdoor game. The gloves have sections of Gold on the hand and thumb, while the fingers are navy and the upper cuff gets a splash of white.

But perhaps the most notable change comes to the pants with the blue and Gold Tennessee Tri-Star logo on the right leg. That's affixed to a navy base color and accented with Gold and white stripes down the sides - a rather slick look to take for a test drive.

The gloves and pants will go back into storage for now, however, as Saturday's matchup is top of mind. And with all of the extra storylines that come with a Saturday night skirmish with the Stars, it's clear what is most important when the puck drops - the chance to take two points and collect a win against that rival.

"We're definitely playing a lot better, and there's definitely a turnaround from where we were, losing more games than we were winning, but every time we seem to take our foot off the gas a little bit, or take a step back from holding ourselves to the standard that we have been playing at, we lose hockey games," Watson said. "We've got to find a way to continue to stay consistent and holding ourselves to a high standard of hockey… But we are playing better, and it's a little bit easier to get back on track that way."

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