The Nashville Predators (17-12-6) will face the Dallas Stars (21-11-4) at Bridgestone Arena tonight at 7 p.m. hoping to end their current four game losing streak against the best team in the Pacific Division.
The Predators head into the game with several key pieces of their opening day line-up unavailable to play or potentially returning from injuries. Matthew Lombardi, who was thought to be their first line center, has not played since the second game of the year.
We learned yesterday that, Marty Erat has been placed on injured reserve and Steve Sullivan will be out from 10-14 days. The Predators are hopeful that David Legwand will be ready to return tonight but even if he does play, he will not be in tested game condition.
The stunner of the day on Monday was the revelation that Jordin Tootoo has entered a joint NHL/NHLPA program to receive treatment for a personal issue. Tootoo is to be commended for making a decision to seek help and may grow into the player everyone has wanted to see him become when he returns.
Predator fans (and even his detractors) everywhere should rally behind Tootoo and support him as he tries to bring his life back to order.
Tonight, the Predators will be dependent on rookies Linus Klasen and Chris Mueller, who was signed yesterday, to step up and play a two way game in the Predator system and fill the holes of key forwards. The Preds have scored three goals in the last four games so offense from anywhere would be welcomed.
The Predators will send Pekka Rinne (8-9-4, 2.29, .921) into the net for the third straight game since his return from injury. Kari Lehtonen (15-8-4, 2.47, .920) is the probable starter for Dallas but the Stars could choose to go with Andrew Raycroft (6-3-0, 2.36, .923) since they play Detroit at home tomorrow night.
Pekka Rinne shut out Dallas in a 1-0 masterpiece on October 23 which was the two teams only prior meeting this year. Cal O'Reilly scored on a rebound off of a Shea Weber shot just 42 seconds into the contest and that held up as the only score in the contest.
After tonight's game, the Predators will travel to Minnesota on Thursday for a New Years Eve contest with the Minnesota Wild and then return home to play Columbus on Sunday.
Other Predator Previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, The Tennessean and Predators.com.
The other side of the Star-Preds game previews can be found at The Dallas Morning News, ESPN Dallas, the Star-Telegram, The Dallas Stars Blog, and Defending Big D.
I will co-host Ryan Porth's RLD Hockey Radio today at a special time of 1 p.m. Central. Ryan's guest will be USA Today's Kevin Allen who will preview Saturday's Winter Classic in Pittsburgh.
In Pred Nation...
Josh Cooper has a few leftover quotes from Sunday's game with the Blues. He also has stories about Jordin Tootoo and Steve Sullivan missing 10-14 days.
Aaron Sims has a good post on Chris Mueller and Jordin Tootoo and points to a 2003 story about Jordin's brother's untimely death that Tootoo has carried with him ever since.
Bleeding all Blue has a thoughtful piece about Jordin Tootoo's battle that shows the compassion of hockey fans from around the league.
Colin Wilson is looking on the bright side of the Predators' streak at his weekly blog.
Mike Morreale has a feature piece on Ryan Ellis at the World Junior Tournament.
Jeremy Gover wraps up the first day of the World Juniors for the Predator prospects.
Jim Diamond talked to several Predators about the past World Junior experiences.
Robby at Hockey Night in Nashville sums up a busy day in Nashville on Monday.
Winter Classic Update...
Ryan Porth has his top five Ovechkin-Crosby moments.
Puck Daddy takes a look at all the potential issues facing this edition of the Winter Classic.
Dan Rosen's latest blog entry discusses the ice crew getting the night off.
Matt Reitz has handy links to both episodes of 24/7 that have been released so far.
Here is the latest time-lapse of the ice build at Heinz Field.
For a 24/7 live streaming camera view of Heinz Field go below.
World Junior Scoreboard...
Slovakia 2, Germany 1 (OT)
Czech Republic 2, Norway 0
Today's slate of games is highlighted by Czech Republic at Canada at 3 p,m, and Slovakia playing Team USA at 7 p.m.
Around the NHL...
Chris Osgood recorded his 400th win against Colorado last night and becomes one of only teen netminders to reach that plateau.
Mike Chen figures out which division is the best in the NHL.
Adrian Dater has a look around the league at Versus and does mention his favorite storyline that never ends - Peter Forsberg.
Due to Sunday's "snow game" in New Jersey, the Devils are giving everyone who had a ticket a free ticket to one of three future games. Is that like giving a person who had something they didn't like in a restaurant more of the same item to compensate?
Odds and Ends...
Here is a neat video about the fictional town of Elgin Park that is stuck in the 50's to this day.
It appears that Festivus may have become a worldwide holiday this year according to Twitter research.
It sounds like Verizon's iPhone is near but as a new Droid X owner I don't know why anyone would want the iPhone when the Droid does most things much better.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass