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PREVIEW: Dallas Stars hope to prey on struggling Nashville Predators

Jan 24, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski (16) and right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) in action during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 24, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski (16) and right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95) in action during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As banged up as the Nashville Predators are at the moment, avoiding their longest losing streak of the season might be difficult against a Dallas Stars squad that finally has something positive to build on.

Without another key contributor in the lineup, the visiting Predators look to keep from suffering a fourth straight defeat Sunday night against the Stars, who will try to win back-to-back games for the first time since January.

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After allowing nine combined goals to win four of its final five games in February, Nashville has been outscored 15-8 while going 0-3-0 in March.

Eeli Tolvanen registered his fourth goal to open the scoring Saturday versus Florida, but the visiting Panthers posted the next four in handing the Predators a 6-2 defeat.

“It’s frustrating right now,” Predators captain Roman Josi said afterward. “We’re frustrated with the way we’re playing right now. We need to find a way to get out of this together. It’s obviously not the way we want to play right now. We know it’s in the room.”

Nashville played Saturday without high-priced veteran Matt Duchene, who has just eight points in 23 games and is slated to miss 3-to-5 weeks with a lower-body injury. The Predators are also minus defenseman Ryan Ellis (upper body), forward Luke Kunin (lower body) and goalie Juuse Saros (upper body).

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A healthy Pekka Rinne stopped 26 of 32 shots on Saturday, and he has a 4.43 goals-against average while losing each of his last four appearances. He allowed two goals on eight shots in replacing Saros during a 7-0 loss at Dallas on Jan. 22. However, current backup Kasimir Kaskisuo could make his first start since November 2019 in his only prior NHL game, a 6-1 loss at Pittsburgh while with Toronto.

Nashville was outscored 10-2 while losing two January meetings at Dallas. Filip Forsberg scored one of his team-high 10 goals on the season at Dallas, and has one with four assists in his last two contests.

This contest kicks off a stretch of eight consecutive road games, beginning and ending at Dallas. The Predators are two points ahead of the Stars, who snapped a four-game slide with Saturday’s 5-0 rout of Columbus.

Roope Hintz had a goal with an assist and Joe Pavelski scored on the power play for his team-high 11th of the season for the Stars, who were outscored 13-4 over their previous four contests. It was a much-needed result for Dallas, which is 2-7-3 since the start of February, and snapped an 0-3-3 home rut.

The Stars last won consecutive games while starting 4-0-0 from Jan. 22-28.

“We were going to take a win any way we can get it now,” said Pavelski, who leads the NHL with nine power-play goals.

Pavelski has recorded seven (three goals, four assists) of his team-leading 22 points against the Predators this season.

Rookie backup Jake Oettinger made 21 saves for his first NHL shutout in his seventh career start on Saturday.

“It’s nice to get a win,” Oettinger said. “Hopefully, we can rattle a few more off here.”

It’s likely Oettinger will give way to Anton Khudobin, who has a 3.39 goals-against average during a three-game losing streak. Khudobin, though, has stopped 49 of 51 shots while in net for both 2021 wins over the Predators.

–Field Level Media