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Winter Classic coming into focus as Stars face Preds for first time

The blossoming rivalry continues with the two clubs having last met in the first round of 2019 playoffs

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (18-11-4) at Predators (14-11-5)

5:30 p.m., Bridgestone Arena

TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM, 96.7 FM

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Winter Classic starts to come into focus today.

The first meeting between these two teams this season will be followed by an outdoor game at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1. Mix in the fact that the last time the Stars were at Bridgestone Arena, they took a 5-3 win that helped pave the way to a six-game series win in the opening round of the playoffs.

"It's the playoffs that create rivalries," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness. "We played them last year in the playoffs, and this is their first kick at us. I'm sure they're going to come out and recreate that rivalry. It's a big divisional game and we've got to be ready for it. The Winter Classic will take care of itself, but right now I think they're focused on losing to us in the playoffs and getting their kick at us."

The players, too, are excited for the challenge.

Video: Seguin 'can't wait' to play in NHL Winter Classic

"It's huge, you can't understate that," said defenseman Taylor Fedun, who scored a goal Friday. "But, you know, we've been building a rivalry with them and I think it gets better and better every year. The way things ended in the playoffs for them last year, and then we got the big game on New Year's Day this year. So, I think it's important for us to try and get our rest while we can tonight and then put our best foot forward tomorrow and start off this rivalry this season off right."

The Stars have had a hectic week, so focusing on an intense battle on the ice might be a good thing for them. Dallas is 6-7-2 on the road, including 0-2-1 in its past three. The Stars score 2.72 per game at home and 2.40 on the road. They allow 1.89 at home and 2.87 on the road. They have a .937 save percentage at home and .911 on the road.

But maybe the most drastic difference is on the power play, where Dallas converts at 21.0 percent at home and is 30th in the NHL at 9.1 percent on the road.

All of that will be in the conversation today, as the restructured coaching staff, with Derek Laxdal running the power play, will be tested in its first road game.

 

What to watch

There are some interesting numbers in head-to-head here.

Matt Duchene has rolled up 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 38 games against the Stars, most of that coming while he played with Colorado. Roman Josi, meanwhile, has 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 32 games against the Stars. Josi leads Nashville in scoring this season with 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) in 30 games. He also is plus-11.

The Stars' top players have not posted great regular season numbers against the Predators. Jamie Benn has 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) and is minus-9 in 42 career games against Nashville. Tyler Seguin has 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) in 28 games. He is minus-16 in that span.

Two unlikely heroes for Dallas could be Anton Khudobin and Esa Lindell. Khudobin went 2-1-1 against Nashville last season with a 2.01 GAA and .945 save percentage. He went 2-0-1 at Bridgestone Arena. Esa Lindell, meanwhile, had 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) in five games vs. the Preds.

"It's huge," Lindell said when asked about the game. "Divisional game makes it even bigger. It's always nice to play there. It's a great rink and I'm looking forward to it."

Video: VGK@DAL: Lindell discusses Stars' OT loss to Vegas

 

Lineup updates

This is an odd test for the Stars.

Dallas lost a 3-2 game in overtime to Vegas at American Airlines Center Friday, hopped on a plane, and will have a 5:30 p.m. puck drop today.

John Klingberg missed Friday's game because of an illness in the family, but was on the plane and is expected to play tonight. Taylor Fedun was a last-minute addition and scored a goal Friday, so does he stay in and another defenseman comes out, or does he come out to make room for Klingberg?

Likewise, with the quick turnaround, is this a place where we could see Justin Dowling jump into the lineup? Rick Bowness switched his lines to put Roope Hintz with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in the third period Friday, so he'll probably start with that tonight.

Then, again, we're all just guessing here, so we'll have to wait for the game to see.

Khudobin will be in goal, so that's a good thing for the Stars.

Video: DAL@NSH: Khudobin makes 49 stops, shuts out Predators

 

By the numbers
41

Nashville has scored 41 goals in the third period this season, second most in the NHL. Dallas has allowed 34 third period goals, ranking 20th in the NHL. Dallas has allowed 18 first-period goals, the second fewest in the league.

 

0

Tyler Seguin has zero power-play goals this season. He also has zero goals at all in the past 10 games. That breaks his longest goal drought this season (he had nine earlier). Seguin's career long is 12 games.

 

Plus-2

Dallas is plus-2 in overall special-teams goals, with 16 power-play goals, 16 goals against on the penalty kill, two shorthanded goals for and no shorthanded goals against. Nashville is minus-4 with 17 power play goals for, 22 goals against on the penalty kill, four shorthanded goals for and three shorthanded goals against.

Video: VGK@DAL: Bowness on Klingberg's absence, OT loss

 

He said it 

"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 team. It's definitely a big rivalry, so I'm sure it'll be an exciting one tomorrow."

-- Nashville captain Roman Josi on facing the Stars

Video: VGK@DAL: Fedun discusses hectic pregame, early goal

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin

Joe Pavelski - Mattias Janmark - Alexander Radulov

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Roman Polak

Anton Khudobin

Ben Bishop

Scratched: D Taylor Fedun, C Justin Dowling

Injured: D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back)

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Edmonton Oilers as they return home to American Airlines Center on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

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

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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