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Focused Stars eager to close out Predators in Game 6

Dallas hopes to eliminate Nashville at home to win its first playoff series since 2016

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will look to close out their first-round playoff series and advance to Round 2 when they take on the Nashville Predators in Game 6 tonight (7:30 p.m. CT; FS-SW, CNBC; KTCK 1310-AM, 96.7-FM) at American Airlines Center.

The Stars, who lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, are looking for their first playoff series win since 2016 when they knocked off Minnesota in Round 1.

The Stars have won the last two games of the series, including a 5-3 victory in Saturday's Game 5 in Nashville, to put themselves in position to win the series tonight.

"I think we've been building on our game since Game 1 and I think we've been better every game and that's something we've been talking about that we want to accomplish," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "We've been working hard on our game since the All-Star break, and through some ups and downs the whole season, and I think we are ready for this. We want to close it out tonight."

The Stars haven't closed out a playoff series at home since 2008 when Brenden Morrow scored in the fourth overtime of Game 6 to propel the Stars past San Jose in the Western Conference semifinals.

The American Airlines Center crowd was electric in Games 3 and 4 of the 2019 playoffs. It should be amped-up even higher tonight and the Stars are hoping to ride that energy as they look to finish off the Predators.

Video: Cogliano believes Game 6 will be Stars' hardest game

"The crowd has been awesome. Tonight is going to be a great atmosphere," said Stars forward Andrew Cogliano. "We have to control our emotions and stick to our game plan. Our team has played a very simple, hard game all series and I don't think we get away from that tonight."

And the Stars expect the best from the Predators, whose season is on the line the tonight and will try to get the series back to Nashville for a Game 7 Wednesday night.

"The [Predators] are going to be a desperate hockey team," said Stars forward Blake Comeau. "It's do-or-die for them. We have to realize that. We've got to make sure our start is really good, try to feed off the crowd and that energy and that emotion and just make sure we stick to our system and play real good defensive hockey."

Stars coach Jim Montgomery, who said he was encouraged by the team's focus in the morning skate, said he expects to go with the same lineup as the last game.

That will include keeping together the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov which was dominant in Saturday's 5-3 win in Nashville and the second line of Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz, and Mats Zuccarello which produced two goals Saturday, both by Dickinson.

The defense pairs are expected to be the same and Ben Bishop, of course, gets the start in goal for the Stars. He is coming off a 30-save effort in Saturday's victory.

 

'Battle-tested' Predators face do-or-die situation

It's crunch time for the Predators who are on the brink of elimination in the series. They've been through a lot of playoff battles over the past several years and are relying on those experiences as they head into tonight's game that will determine if they live to fight another day in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I do think that there's value in the experiences that have been picked up by our group over the years, both winning and losing," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "Just a lot of playoff scenarios and regular season scenarios that the core of this group has been through together. They're battle-tested, and they're ready for an opportunity like this. I do think the experiences that we've been through; they make us a little bit tougher in a situation like this.

"We shouldn't be deer in the headlights when a game like this happens. We've been here before."

Nashville is expected to go with the same players as last game, although they are juggling their lines again. The top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson skated together this morning, but Kyle Turris was back on the second line with Mikael Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi on his wings.

Forward Wayne Simmonds, who has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, was on the ice for the morning skate but did not take part in line rushes.

Pekka Rinne is the expected starter in goal.

 

Game 6: Predators at Stars (Dallas leads 3-2)

Where: American Airlines Center
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest, CNBC
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 - Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund - Kyle Turris - Rocco Grimaldi
Brian Boyle - Nick Bonino - Austin Watson
Calle Jarnkrok - Colton Sissons - Craig Smith

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

Pekka Rinne
Juuse Saros

Scratched: Miikka Salomaki, Cody McLeod, Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, Frederick Gaudreau, Rem Pitlick, Zac Rinaldo, Niclas Westerholm
Injured: 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 DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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