Predators look for second straight win as they chase Stars

NHL
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The Nashville Predators will look for their second win in three days over the Stars when the two Central Division rivals meet in Dallas on Saturday afternoon.

Juuse Saros made 33 saves in the Predators’ 2-0 shutout victory over the Stars on Thursday in Nashville. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Predators and also ended a five-game winless drought against Dallas dating back to last season’s first-round playoff matchup.

“It might have been the best poise and puck movement we’ve had all season,” Predators forward Matt Duchene said. “It just looked more like what we should look like as a hockey team. We had way more good looks and good rushes. We looked dangerous tonight, and we haven’t looked [like] that very much this season.”

Thursday’s result kept Nashville afloat in the crowded Western Conference postseason race. Six teams are vying for two wild card spots, and the Predators (33-26-8, 74 points) potentially could get over the playoff line with a win on Saturday, depending on other results.

A victory also would move the Predators closer to Dallas (37-22-8, 82 points) for third place in the Central Division and an automatic playoff bid. The Stars’ lead over the pack has narrowed thanks to Dallas’ 0-2-2 record over its past four games.

An increasingly leaky penalty kill unit has been a factor in that slump, as Dallas opponents are 9-for-29 on power plays over the Stars’ past nine games. Both goals for the Predators on Thursday came with an extra attacker on the ice.

Nashville, meanwhile, held the Stars scoreless on four power-play attempts on Thursday. While the Predators’ penalty killers have struggled for most of the season, Nashville been rolling as of late, killing off 17 of their opponents’ past 18 power plays.

“Clearly the specialty teams were the difference and we’ll address that … in practice,” Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness said. “But it’s the desperation that they played with that we didn’t play with that’s disappointing. We haven’t done anything yet. We don’t have a [playoff] spot … I expect our desperation level to pick up a whole lot by Saturday afternoon.”

Scoring has been an ongoing issue for Dallas, as the Stars rank near the bottom of the league in both total goals and goals in five-on-five play. Dallas has been shut out five times this season.

Saturday’s game is the first date on a four-game homestand for the Stars and the first of a five-game road trip for the Predators.

Anton Khudobin stopped 30 of 32 shots on Thursday and could start in net Saturday for the sixth time in Dallas’ past seven games. Ben Bishop has been sidelined due to struggles in his past two games and a minor lower-body injury, though he was available as Khudobin’s backup on Thursday.

Saros will look to follow his shutout with another strong performance as he continues to emerge as the Predators’ first choice between the pipes. Saros has played in 38 games (32 starts), recording a 15-12-4 record, three shutouts, and a .910 save percentage.

Defenseman Dan Hamhuis is questionable for Saturday after missing the Predators’ last game due to a lower-body injury.

Nashville captain Roman Josi is on a five-game point streak (two goals, four assists).

–Field Level Media

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