Stars host surging Preds in Big D
There's a three-way tie atop the Pacific Division game homestand tonight versus the Nashville Predators.
Dallas is tied with San Jose and Phoenix for division supremacy, as all three clubs own 39 points on the season. The Stars had won four of five games before dropping a 4-1 decision to Philadelphia on Wednesday. Michael Ryder posted the lone goal in the first period and Richard Bachman was tagged for all four goals on 30 shots.
"You can't take away anything from Philadelphia because they played a solid game," said Dallas forward Steve Ott. "They took advantage of the power plays they had and when you give the top-scoring team in the league chances, they'll kill you."
The Stars are still a solid 10-5-1 at American Airlines Center this season and received some positive news this week on injured goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen has missed the last 10 games after suffering a groin injury in a loss at Phoenix on Nov. 26 and was back at practice on Thursday. A timetable for his return is unknown, but it was a good sign for things to come.
"Yeah, he's right on track. He'll be a game player for us after Christmas at some point before the new year, somewhere in that six-day block," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan told the club's website.
Bachman and Andrew Raycroft have filled in admirably in Lehtonen's absence. The latter is 13-4-1 with a 2.34 goals-against-average in his 19 games. Stars defensemen Philip Larsen (charley horse) and Stephane Robidas (foot) are questionable for Friday's game.
Nashville has been on a roll lately with wins in seven of its last 10 games, and is coming off Thursday's 6-5 decision over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Martin Erat scored with 8.4 seconds left in regulation for the Predators, who overcame a 4-1 deficit after the first 20 minutes of action and posted a pair of goals in the final stanza to skate off with the victory. David Legwand scored the tying goal with 3:46 to go in the third period, while Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling and Roman Josi had a goal apiece.
"I've been a part of different types of comebacks over the years," said Nashville head coach Barry Trotz. "I didn't think we played bad and yet we were down 4-1. I said after the first period that (Columbus' lead) came too easy. All you have to do is chip away."
Pekka Rinne won despite allowing five goals on 31 shots. Rinne posted his sixth consecutive win, just one short of his franchise record of seven straight triumphs from Nov. 12-25, 2009.
Nashville battled back from a two-goal deficit or more for the fourth time this month and fifth time this season. Shea Weber had three assists in the win for his 45th multi-point game, moving him past Greg Johnson for 10th on the team's all-time list. Defenseman Kevin Kline missed the game with flu-like symptoms and is questionable for tonight.
The Predators are 9-7-1 away from the Music City this season and are fourth in the Central Division -- eight points off Chicago's lead. They are 3-1-0 on the road against Pacific Division foes and will play the first of four meetings with the Stars tonight. Dallas went 2-2-0 last season against the Predators, losers in 11 of their past 15 trips to Big D.