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Round One: Stars and Preds X-Factors

Nashville Additions, Dallas Special Teams Set to Play Key Roles in First-Round Matchup

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / Digital Manager & Producer

Put simply, the special teams advantage sides with Dallas. The Stars hold the NHL's 10th ranked power play unit at 21 percent and a Top Five penalty kill at 83 percent.

While the Predators can counter with a sixth ranked penalty kill - just one percentage point off at 82 percent, it's the 30th-ranked power play (13 percent) that compares poorly to the Stars' man-advantage units. Nashville scored a single power-play goal within the teams' season series when Roman Josi tied the game in the final minute - and with the goalie pulled - in the clubs' first meeting of the season.

Dallas' team defense has become more well rounded under first-year Head Coach Jim Montgomery, but the Stars still boast players like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alex Radulov, John Klingberg and trade-deadline pickup Mats Zuccarello across their PP units. Offensive talent like that helped Dallas score more than 40 power-play goals during the regular season.

Can the Stars swing a playoff game or two with their special teams edge? With two of Nashville's wins over the Stars coming in overtime during the regular season, Dallas will be hoping that this time around, they can score that extra goal and turn a contest in their favor.

Not one to ignore a weakness for his club, Predators General Manager David Poile has been bringing veteran, proven pieces to his roster over the last few months with the goal of improving the Preds' power play and offense as whole.

Three new faces have been added to the Nashville power play units via three separate deals. Poile brought in 6-foot-6 Brian Boyle and power-play specialist Wayne Simmonds in trades with New Jersey and Philadelphia, respectively. The GM also flipped Kevin Fiala for Mikael Granlund in a deal with the Minnesota Wild.

While Boyle has picked up five goals since coming to Nashville (and served as quite the asset as a screen in front of the opposition's net), Simmonds and Granlund have scored just once apiece since joining the Predators. Both Simmonds and Granlund have extensive playoff experience, however, and if either one of them starts to chip in more goals (especially on the power play), they could turn the series for Nashville.

Boyle and Simmonds have a combined 153 playoff games between them, and traditionally, the gritty, drive-to-the-net style they both play excels in postseason hockey. Is that the case again this year? Poile and the Preds are banking on yes.

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