Stars-Predators Preview

The Nashville Predators snapped their longest losing streak of

the season with a big win in their last game.

Coach Barry Trotz’s team, though, hardly seems content.

The Predators try to make it two in a row Thursday night against

the visiting Dallas Stars as these Central Division rivals meet for

the first time.

Nashville (14-14-3) had been outscored 18-7 during an 0-4-1 skid

before a 4-1 road win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Paul

Gaustad tallied a goal and two assists while Matt Hendricks and

Rich Clune added one of each.

“I think everyone is going to sleep a little easier,” said

Clune, who had gone without a point in his first 17 games. “We

stopped the bleeding, but we have to move forward, ride the high on

the plane, but refocus fast.”

Carter Hutton made 28 saves in his first start since Nov. 10,

improving to 5-3-1 with a 3.03 goals-against average. Rookie Marek

Mazanec had compiled a 3.42 mark during the losing streak.

“Especially not playing in a while, you want to get some shots

and feel good,” Hutton told the NHL’s official website. “I think I

did a good job tonight of handling the puck. For me, that’s a way

of establishing my game.”

The Predators now turn their attention to the Stars (14-10-5),

whose next four games come against division foes. Dallas visits

Winnipeg and Colorado after this game before returning home to face

the Avalanche again.

“It’s a big four games,” defenseman Brenden Dillon told the

team’s official website. “We’ve been playing well on the road, we

want to keep that going and we’ve got to understand the meaning of

these games.

“We just have to understand that we have to win and take care of

ourselves. We don’t want to have to rely on someone else to help us

with our fate. We want to be able to control our destiny.”

While the Stars are 2-3-4 in their last nine at home, they are

7-1-1 on the road since the start of November. Dallas sits in fifth

place in the Central with 33 points, two more than last-place

Nashville.

The Stars are looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to

NHL-leading Chicago. Kari Lehtonen stopped 15 of 19 shots before

getting pulled 8:20 into the second period.

“We just got flat-out outworked. You’re not going to win like

that,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “That was something we’ve taken a lot

of pride in, but we got outskated,” he said. ”If we want to be one

of the best teams, we’ve got to beat the best.”

Antoine Roussel provided all the offense, giving him five goals

and two assists in the last seven games.

“He’s the one bright spot,” Ruff added. “He wasn’t afraid to get

into dirty places and he got rewarded for being in the right place.

I admire the way he plays the game.”

Lehtonen is 1-3-3 with a 3.26 GAA over his last seven contests.

He has dropped three consecutive starts against the Predators while

compiling a 3.06 GAA.

Eric Nystrom, who spent the previous two seasons with Dallas

before signing with Nashville this summer, faces his former team

for the first time.

The Predators had taken four straight from the Stars before

losing the last matchup 5-2 on April 12. Alex Chiasson, who scored

twice that night, has just one goal in his last six games.

Dallas is 9-3-0 when Chiasson has at least one point compared to

5-7-5 when he doesn’t.