With one of their most productive streaks this season, the Dallas Stars have driven back to the top of the Western Conference.
The Stars' lead, however, is razor thin, and they could use another win over the Nashville Predators on Monday night to protect it. It's also unclear if they'll have Tyler Seguin available.
Dallas (36-15-5) matched a season high by reaching the four-goal mark for a third consecutive game Saturday and that was enough to edge Eastern Conference-leading Washington. Tyler Seguin found the net twice in a 4-3 victory as the Stars survived the Capitals' third-period rally.
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The Stars' third straight win gave them 77 points to match Central Division-rival Chicago, but they've played three fewer games, giving them the tiebreaker.
Dallas had a nine-point lead in the conference Jan. 1 but dropped five points behind the Blackhawks with its 2-6-2 start to the new year. The Stars have won six of seven since, scoring 21 goals in their past five victories.
Seguin has five goals and four assists in six games this month, but had his arm cut by Nicklas Backstrom's skate in the third period Saturday. Cody Eakin also suffered an undisclosed injury in that same period.
The Stars are already missing Jason Spezza, one of their top goal scorers with 18, due to an upper-body ailment.
John Klingberg, one of the league's highest-scoring defensemen, has four goals and three assists this month. Dallas has also gotten four goals and four assists in the last five games from Patrick Eaves, who had four points in his first 31.
Eaves registered his second career hat trick Thursday in a 4-2 victory in Chicago, the Stars' fourth straight on the road.
“Obviously, those are two pretty good teams that we beat, so we're a confident group in here,” captain Jamie Benn said.
Eaves had one of the Stars' trio of third-period goals and Seguin tallied the other two in a 5-1 rout of Nashville on Dec. 31. The Stars have outscored the Predators 13-5 in winning three straight in the series.
They ended a four-game skid in Nashville last April and will next face a team that's lost four of five on its own ice.
The Predators (26-21-9) have given up a combined 18 goals in those home games but topped Florida 5-0 on Saturday to earn three points in their two contests in the Sunshine State. Carter Hutton stopped 22 shots in his first action since Jan. 27.
“Whenever they give me starts, I play,” said Hutton, who has stopped 77 of 78 shots in winning his only three starts over the last month. “Anything I can do to help our team win. I understand my role. At the same time, just any way I can contribute is what I try to do.”
That would appear to force coach Peter Laviolette to choose between Hutton or his struggling No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is 1-2-1 with a 4.00 goals-against average in his last four starts.
Rinne has given up a combined nine goals in his past two meetings with Dallas, including the loss in December. Hutton is 2-2-0 with a 2.26 GAA in four lifetime matchups.
Benn has four goals and two assists in his past two games against Nashville while Seguin has scored three times in his last two. Eaves has four goals and three assists in a seven-game point streak versus the Predators.