The Dallas Stars get back to Central Division play tonight, taking on the Nashville Predators at American Airlines Center in the final game of the calendar year.
The Stars (27-8-3) will try to bounce back from Tuesday’s 6-3 loss at Columbus. The Stars have not lost consecutive games this season, bouncing back each time to win the next game. They’ll try to continue that trend tonight.
“I think so far this year we’ve seen after that loss, our next game has a lot of determination to make sure we don’t lose two in a row, and that’s hard,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “That’s a hard thing to do in this league. We’re going to see that determination again tonight. I think a lot of it again is going to depend on the energy we’re bringing into the game.”
“It’s just a matter of parking that game, refocusing and getting back to what we are doing well,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “There are 82 games, it’s very competitive, and you can’t dwell on anything too long in this league. There are a lot of games in a short period of time, we have a lot of games coming up here, and you’ve just got to be single-focused on the game you are playing that night and then move forward. That’s no different after a bad loss or a good win.”
This will be the Stars’ first look at the Predators this season. Nashville (18-12-7) has points in four of its last five games (3-1-1). The Predators are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss in St. Louis on Tuesday.
“[I expect] a real hard game. They’re a very good team defending. They don’t give up a lot,” Ruff said. “I think they’ve been a little bit snake bit with the scoring side of it, but it’s going to be a game where we’re not going to get a lot of chances. That group of defense there is I think as good as any group. You have [Roman] Josi, [Shea] Weber, [Seth] Jones, you’ve got some high-quality defensemen that can shoot and offensively, they can get into play and do some damage.”
Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars this morning, so it appears he will get the start in goal tonight.
Patrick Eaves is expected to be back in at forward after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch. Travis Moen will play a third straight game. Radek Faksa, who was called up from the AHL yesterday, skated late and is expected to be the lone healthy scratch at forward.
There are no changes expected on defense. Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth skated late and are the likely scratches on the blue line.
Stars forward Ales Hemsky, who was injured in Tuesday’s game at Columbus, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff provided an update on Hemsky after this morning’s skate.
“It’s lower body, and it looks like it’s going to be more of a week-to-week type of thing,” Ruff said. “Short term, he won’t be available for us.”
Hemsky was injured when he was hit in the foot while blocking a shot late in the second period of Tuesday’s game.
Pekka Rinne will get the start in goal tonight for Nashville. He is 15-10-6 on the season with a 2.38 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. He’s struggled recently on the road, going winless in his past seven starts away from home (0-5-2) with a 3.31 GAA and .880 SV%. His last road win was Nov. 5 at Minnesota.
“There are games where I think we played pretty well and for whatever reason a bounce or a break hadn’t gone our way,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said of the road woes. “I think there are games where we could have done a better job in front of him with some of the opportunities. We’ll continue to look at it and work at it and try to get better, but I think Pekka’s playing really well right now. We’ve got to continue to do a good job of layering in front of him and defending in front of him, tying up and allowing him the opportunity to see pucks. When we do that, we seem to have more success.”
Who: Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket: 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Colton Sceviour
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Injured: Ales Hemsky (lower body)
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Radek Faksa
Filip Forsberg – Mike Ribeiro – Craig Smith
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Viktor Arvidsson
Miikka Salomaki – Calle Jarnkrok – James Neal
Eric Nystrom – Paul Gaustad – Austin Watson
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Barret Jackman – Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
Scratched: Anthony Bitetto, Petter Granberg, Cody Hodgson
Injured: Gabriel Bourque (undisclosed)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.