The Nashville Predators, who are currently riding a four game win streak, travel to Dallas for a 5:00 PM showdown with the Stars, Sunday afternoon. Dallas is one of the NHL’s hottest team and have not lost in regulation at home in over six weeks. This is the final meeting of the year between the two teams as the Preds have taken 2 of the 3 previous games.
The Star’s season got off to a rocky start that came to a head on December 2 with the suspension of malcontent Sean Avery after comments he made about a Calgary player led to a firestorm of controversy. The evidence that Avery was creating a morale issue in the locker room is borne out in the Star’s 17-7-3 record since he left the team compared to 8-12-4 with him in the lineup.
Dallas had been picked by many pundits to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference and are finally living up to that billing. They are currently in fifth place with 57 points and appear to have righted their ship.
Having won 5 of 6 since the all-star break, the Predators are playing their best hockey of the year. Dan Ellis, who lost the starting job in goal to Pekka Rinne, shut out the Wild on Friday night in Minnesota, in the second game of back to back nights.
It was Ellis’s first game in three weeks and placed coach Barry Trotz in a predicament as to who to start against Dallas. The Predator tradition is for a goalie to be rewarded for a shutout with a start in the following game. Rinne has played so well over the last few weeks that it will be a difficult choice for Trotz as to go with the tradition or to return with the hottest goalie in the league.
With the recent surge, the Predators have moved up to tenth place are only two points out of the last playoff position in the tightly bunched Western Conference. Going into Saturday night’s games, only six points separated the ten teams between fifth and fourteenth place.
The Predator’s streak has been led by Captain Jason Arnott, who has scored goals in the last three games. Steve Sullivan, who is eleven games into his comeback after two years off due to injury, is looking more comfortable on the ice and is contributing more each game.
This short two game weekend road trip has been a special time for the Predator players as it is the annual “dad’s weekend”. The players fathers travel with the team and get to experience life of the road with their sons.
After the game against Dallas, the Predators return home to the Sommet Center for a four game home stand that starts Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald