It all begins tonight.
For the fifth-consecutive season, the Nashville Predators will participate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Game 1 comes this evening at Bridgestone Arena against the Dallas Stars.
It's the first-ever postseason meeting between the pair of divisional foes, a division the Preds have won for two-straight years. Nashville posted a 3-2-0 record in the season series with the Stars, with the most recent win coming in a 5-3 triumph in Dallas on Feb. 19.
None of what happened in the previous seven months seems to matter much when the playoffs come around, however, and the Predators are ready to embrace the challenge that lies ahead. There are 16 teams who all have the same dream at this moment in time, and only one of them will win 16 games by the time it's all said and done.
[Read More: Preds Projected Lineup vs. Stars for Game 1]
[Preds Official Podcast: Predators, Stars Round One Preview]
Now, it's time to go to work.
"I'm just excited to try out our team in the playoffs," Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "We've been in this position before, and I think that the experience that we have in the room with the playoff games should be in our favor. We've never faced Dallas in the playoffs, so it's a new test, it's a new opponent, but I believe in this group. I believe in this group of guys, and I think we're very well prepared for it."
"Mentally and physically, I think we're in a good spot," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "We got tested down the stretch here and challenged ourselves and came out on top, so I think that's good from a mental standpoint. From a physical standpoint, I think everybody will be available to me for the start of the playoffs, so that's a positive thing."
Nashville's lineup in two days of practice has remained the same as it was over the course of the final three games of the regular season, including rookie defenseman Dante Fabbro paired with Dan Hamhuis.
Video: Predators become Central Division champs with 5-2 win
Last Time Out:
The Predators concluded the 2018-19 season with a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, a victory that clinched another Central Division title for Nashville. The result also gave the Preds an even 100 points in the overall standings and home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Viktor Arvidsson scored in the finale for Nashville, a goal that was his 34th of the campaign to set a single-season franchise record in the category. Ryan Johansen finished as the club's leading scorer with 64 points on the season, followed by Captain Roman Josi with 56 points and winger Filip Forsberg with 50.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne finished the 2018-19 season with a 30-19-4 record, hitting the 30-win mark for the eighth time in his career and fifth consecutive season. Among the 19 goalies who played at least 50 games, the 2018 Vezina Trophy winner was third in goals-against average (2.42), tied for fourth in save percentage (.918) and 10th in wins (30).
Video: Forsberg, Rinne and Ekholm discuss Game 1 vs. Stars
The Stars finished with 43 wins and 93 points on the season, good enough to clinch the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and finish fourth in the Central Division. This year marks the first time since 2016 Dallas has made it to the postseason.
Tyler Seguin led his club with 33 goals and 80 points, followed by former Preds forward Alexander Radulov with 29 goals and 72 points, and then Stars Captain Jamie Benn with 27 tallies and 53 points. Dallas was stingy on the backend, finishing second in the NHL in goals allowed, surrendering only 200 over the course of 82 games. Ben Bishop led the League in save percentage this season at .934 percent, but the Stars have yet to announce a starter for tonight's game. Goaltender Anton Khudobin played in four of the five meetings between the Preds and Stars this season.
The Predators are 38-40-(1)-5 all-time against the Stars in the regular season, including a 25-15-(1)-2 record at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville and Dallas met five times in the regular season, with the Preds going 3-2-0.
Nashville has earned at least a point in nine of its last 11 games versus Dallas (8-2-1), and the Preds have scored at least four goals in eight of their last 10 victories over Dallas.
Video: Laviolette talks momentum, experience prior to Game 1
Notables Versus Dallas:
Roman Josi has recorded 25 points (10g-15a) in 32 career contests versus Dallas, including a four-point game (2g-2a) on Feb. 25, 2013. Ryan Johansen has recorded three multi-point games in his last seven appearances against Dallas. He's posted 20 points (7g-13a) in 28 career games against the Stars.
Calle Jarnkrok has five points (3g-2a) in his last seven games against Dallas and 12 points (7g-5a) in 25 career meetings with the Stars. Viktor Arvidsson has tallied 12 points (5g-7a) and P.K. Subban has posted nine points (1g-8a) in each of their last 13 contests versus Dallas.
Dan Hamhuis spent two seasons with Dallas from 2016-18, tallying 40 points (4g-36a) in 159 games, and Rem Pitlick is cousins with Stars forward Tyler Pitlick.
When You Go:
Bridgestone Arena doors open at 6:30 p.m. CT ahead of tonight's 8:30 p.m. start for Game 1.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., fans may join the Plaza Party presented by Lee Company, featuring the Smash Car presented by The NASH Collection, live music by Sam McCrary and The Mix, kids games, face painters and the NashvilleLockerRoom.com merchandise truck. Season Ticket Citizens can pick up their commemorative 2019 Playoffs magnet, while all fans will be able to enjoy a commemorative Dr Pepper.
Make sure to be in your seat to catch a special pregame show prior to puck drop. All fans will also receive an LED Lanyard presented by Bridgestone, and a t-shirt presented by Bridgestone, Kroger, Hunt Brothers, Team Construction, Catchin' Deers and Jani-King.
Video: Predators, Stars meet for first time in Game 1
Watch & Listen:
Tonight's game from Nashville comes with an 8:30 p.m. CT start time with Predators Live Pregame beginning at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Tennessee. Fans outside of the home market can view the game on USA in the United States and Sportsnet in Canada. The game can also be heard on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.
Listen to a Live Radio Feed (only active during the game broadcast window).
Watch a Live Stream of the game on the NBC Sports App.