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Montgomery: Slim deficit 'puts more urgency' in Stars

Dallas enters Game 4 in search of a win to avoid being pushed to the brink of elimination by Nashville

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will look to even the series when they take on the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round playoff matchup tonight at American Airlines Center (7 p.m. CT; FS-SW, USA Network; KTCK). The Predators lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.

 A Dallas win and it's 2-2 with the series heading back to Nashville for Game 5 on Saturday. A Nashville win and the Stars would be in a 3-1 hole. Stars coach Jim Montgomery isn't ready to call tonight's game a must-win.

"I think it puts more urgency in us," Montgomery said. "I don't view it as a must-win. We view it as we need to keep getting better. If we keep getting better, we think the results will take care of themselves."


[MIKE HEIKA: 'Fire to play' helping veteran Jason Spezza work hard to get back in lineup]


The Stars felt they got better from Game 2 to Game 3, but they lost both. The Stars had the game tilted their way most of the night in Game 3 on Monday, created a lot of chances but it wasn't enough in the 3-2 loss.

The Dallas power play, which went 0-for-4, didn't help. Nashville cashing in on a couple of shots from distance didn't help either. But Montgomery saw progress in the team's play.

"We're getting better," said Montgomery. "[Monday] was the first time we won the faceoff in our process. We continue to be really good on limiting odd-man rushes, and that's a big key for us. And the net-front, and I thought we won the battle of the net front where we lost it significantly in the second game.

"I thought we ratcheted up our will in that the last game. It wasn't good enough, so we need to be a little bit better."

The Stars will need to generate more offense after scoring just three goals in the past two games.

Video: Stars preparing for 'goalie chess match' in Game 4

The power play is 0-for-10 in those two games and has been something the Stars looked at heading into tonight. But the Stars aren't having a ton of luck at even-strength either. They need to find ways to get a puck or two more past Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, who has stopped 62 of 65 shots in the last two games.

"Keep shooting," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "Keep shooting from bad angles -- all angles and drive the net and try to get traffic in there."

There were some different looking forward lines at Monday's morning skate. Time will tell if they'll be the same at tonight's game.

Montgomery had the big three of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov reunited on the top line. Mats Zuccarello (maintenance) didn't skate this morning, but it appears he will skate on the second line with Roope Hintz at center and Jason Dickinson as the other winger. Andrew Cogliano moved back onto a line with Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau.

Jason Spezza centered the fourth line with Justin Dowling and Tyler Pitlick.

Valeri Nichushkin, who played last game, appears to be a scratch for tonight, making room for Pitlick to come back in after he was scratched on Monday. Mattias Janmark (lower body) will miss a second straight game and is day-to-day.

No changes are expected on defense based on this morning's skate. The defense pairs this morning were: Esa Lindell-John Klingberg; Miro Heiskanen-Roman Polak; Jamie Oleksiak-Ben Lovejoy.

Ben Bishop gets the start in goal.


Stars recall seven players from AHL

The Stars recalled seven players from Texas of the AHL this morning. Texas' season ended over the weekend when it was eliminated from playoff contention.

Joining the NHL roster are defensemen Joel Hanley, Dillon Heatherington and Gavin Bayreuther, and wingers Denis Gurianov, Nick Caamano and Adam Mascherin, along with center Joel L'Esperance.

Montgomery said those players, the so-called black aces, will practice separately and will be pulled into the main team practices when needed.


No lineup changes expected for Predators

There are no expected lineup changes for the Predators. They'll go with the same forward lines, defense pairs, and Pekka Rinne in goal. The Predators are expecting a big push from the Stars, who will be looking to even the series and avoid going down 3-1 with Game 5 in Nashville on Saturday.

"We expect their best," Nashville forward Austin Watson said. "They had a really good effort in Game 3 as well. We expect a push from them. Every game we expect to see their best and a little bit better than the game before. We'll be ready."


Tonight's game

Who: Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars
Series: Western Conference Round 1, Game 4 (Predators lead 2-1)
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest, USA Network
Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM/96.7-FM


Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jason Dickinson - Roope Hintz - Mats Zuccarello
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Justin Dowling - Jason Spezza - Tyler Pitlick

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Ben Lovejoy

Ben Bishop
Anton Khudobin

Injured: Mattias Janmark (lower body)
Scratched: Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Taylor Fedun, Julius Honka, Landon Bow, Joel Hanley, Dillon Heatherington, Gavin Bayreuther, Denis Gurianov, Joel L'Esperance, Nick Caamano, Adam Mascherin
Injured Reserve: Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee surgery)

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Victor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith
Colton Sissons - Nick Bonino - Austin Watson
Miikka Salomaki - Calle Jarnkrok - Rocco Grimaldi

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Dan Hamhuis - Dante Fabbro

Pekka Rinne
Juuse Saros

Scratched: Cody McLeod, Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, Frederick Gaudreau, Rem Pitlick, Zac Rinaldo, Niclas Westerholm
Injured: Brian Boyle (appendix), Wayne Simmonds (lower body)

For complete postseason coverage, visit Stars Playoff Central.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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