Stars-Predators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 11, 2013
It doesn't appear anyone informed the Dallas Stars that their playoff chances were all but gone after trading away multiple key contributors prior to the deadline. The struggling Nashville Predators, meanwhile, aren't feeling too good about their postseason fate. Dallas continues its unlikely playoff push while seeking a fourth straight victory Friday night against host Nashville, which looks to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat. The Stars traded longtime captain Brenden Morrow to Pittsburgh on March 24 before sending center Derek Roy to Vancouver and then-leading scorer Jaromir Jagr to Boston on April 2. They fell 5-2 to Anaheim on April 3 but have since outscored opponents 13-6 during their winning streak, including 5-1 over Los Angeles on Tuesday. Despite the trades, Dallas (19-17-3) is not far behind Detroit for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. "We've lost some guys that produce offense, and some of us have to step up and contribute. It seems things are clicking," said center Vernon Fiddler, who along with Ray Whitney scored twice Tuesday. "We've found a little bit of chemistry and we have to keep it going if we want to make the playoffs." Seven players have scored for Dallas over the last three games including three goals from rookie forward Alex Chiasson, who was called up from the AHL at the trade deadline. "When you're spreading the scoring around, it gives everybody else a little bit of confidence," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "That's all guys need, and this is the right time of year to have it." One potential hurdle, though, is the health of goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who left Tuesday's contest with a lower-body injury. Richard Bachman, just 1-3-0 with a 3.99 goals-against average in four starts this season, likely will be in net Friday with Cristopher Nilstorp serving as the backup. Dallas has lost four straight meetings with Nashville, including 4-0 on March 12 in the most recent matchup as Pekka Rinne made 32 saves. Rinne has a 1.85 GAA over his last seven starts, but he's lost six of them as the Predators (15-18-8) have been shut out three times in that stretch. Nashville has scored four goals during its skid and is on the verge of dropping five straight for the first time since Dec. 18-28, 2010, after falling 1-0 to St. Louis on Tuesday. "We can't sustain any offense and it is tough to get any shots," captain Shea Weber said. "Everything we've got has been from the outside and we really did not have very many good scoring chances (Tuesday)." Coach Barry Trotz understands his team is danger of missing the playoffs for only the second time in nine seasons. The Predators are 1-5-2 over their last eight and rank near the bottom of the league with 94 goals. They mustered only 15 shots Tuesday - the eighth time they've finished with fewer than 20. The team also announced Thursday that Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad and Gabriel Bourque will be having season-ending surgeries. Bourque is tied for the team lead with 11 goals. "Everybody has to be realistic right now," Trotz said. "The only thing we can really hang our hat on is to try and win some hockey games. We don't want any quit from anybody. That's not our culture." Nashville has outscored Dallas 14-6 over the last four meetings, including two shutouts. Rinne has posted a 1.50 GAA while winning each contest.
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