The Dallas Stars will try to continue their playoff push with a fourth straight victory when they visit the struggling Nashville Predators for Friday's game at Bridgestone Arena.
Despite being sellers before the deadline, dealing Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr out of Dallas, the surprising Stars find themselves tied with Columbus for 10th in the West and three points out of a playoff spot. Detroit, which is playing Friday night in Nashville, is occupying the West's eighth and final playoff seed with 44 points.
The Stars have won three straight and another victory on Friday would match the club's longest winning streak of the season. Dallas, which had lost three straight prior to its current hot streak, won four in a row from Feb. 4-12.
Dallas turned in its most recent triumph at home, as the Stars used a big third period on Tuesday to blast the Los Angeles Kings by a 5-1 score. Ray Whitney scored twice during the four-goal barrage over the final 20 minutes, helping Dallas cruise to the win.
Vernon Fiddler also had two goals and added an assist, while Alex Goligoski scored once for the Stars.
It wasn't all good news for Dallas, however, as starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury after allowing one goal on eight shots. Richard Bachman stopped all 22 shots in relief.
"Solid. Real solid," said Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan on the play of Bachman. "You could see his rebound control and his confidence. He's out in his crease. He hasn't played for a while, so it's a good one for him."
Lehtonen, the clear-cut No. 1 netminder for the Stars, was able to return to practice on Thursday and will make the trip to Nashville. However, Dallas also recalled goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp from its AHL affiliate on Wednesday and he may be forced to serve as the backup tonight.
The Stars have won two straight on the road and are 10-8-1 as the guest this season. Dallas claimed three consecutive away wins once this season, beating Colorado on Feb. 4 before notching a pair of victories in Edmonton on Feb. 6 and 12.
While Dallas heads into Friday's encounter on a hot streak, the Predators have lost their last four in regulation to seriously damage their playoff chances. Nashville, which hasn't missed the postseason since 2009, is currently seeded 13th in the West and is six points out of a playoff spot.
Nashville has suffered a pair of 1-0 setbacks during its current slide and that was the final score in Tuesday's home loss to St. Louis. The Predators forced Brian Elliott to make just 15 saves for the shutout.
Alexander Steen's blast with 3:23 remaining in the second period was the lone blemish on Pekka Rinne, with the Nashville netminder accumulating 25 saves but receiving little offensive support.
"We can't sustain any offense and it is tough to get any shots," said Predators defenseman and captain Shea Weber. "Everything we've got has been from the outside and we really did not have very many good scoring chances."
Nashville has been dealing with a rash of injuries to forwards, as Gabriel Bourque, Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad and Brandon Yip have been sidelined lately. Of that group, only Bourque, who has sat out the last five games due to an upper body injury, is expected to have a chance at playing in tonight's game.
The Predators have lost three straight on home ice to see their record at Bridgestone Arena this season fall to 10-6-4. Nashville is playing the second tilt of a four-game homestand on Friday and will close it with games against Detroit and Vancouver.
Nashville has won both meetings against the Stars this season, however, and has taken four straight in the series overall. Dallas also has dropped three of four and six of its past nine in Music City.