Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne of Finland. File photo by BIll Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
DALLAS -- Last season, the Nashville Predators took three of the four meetings against the Dallas Stars, outscoring them 14-7.
However, when the teams meet Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center, it will be their first matchup of the season.
"Yeah, they're good in all facets of the game," Stars rookie coach Jim Montgomery said of the Predators after practice Friday. "They've played together for a while. We're going to have be physical and we're going to have to be gritty, and we're going to have to make it a tough game for them to have any kind of skating room."
Dallas (9-6-1, 19 points) started its four-game homestand with a 4-3 win over San Jose on Thursday.
However, that victory came at a price as standout defenseman John Klingberg was struck in the hand with a shot and after surgery Friday morning will miss at least four weeks.
The Stars recalled defenseman Joel Hanley, who has 22 games of NHL experience from stints with Montreal and Arizona, from AHL Texas to help fill the sizable void left by Klingberg's injury. Montgomery expects big things from Hanley, who played five games for the Coyotes last season.
"We really liked him in camp. We love his decision making, he's got high-end hockey sense and he's got the feet to be able to break pucks out," Montgomery said of Hanley.
Montgomery also said the Stars will again be without defenseman Marc Methot (lower body) and forwards Brett Ritchie (illness), who will miss a fourth consecutive game, and Alexander Radulov (lower body), who is on injured reserve and has played just one of the past 10 games.
Dallas is 6-2-0 at home. After going 3-2-1 during its season-long six-game road trip in the Eastern Conference that concluded earlier this week, the Stars are clearly happy to see home for a spell.
"It was great to be home last night (Thursday)," Montgomery said. "The crowd was into the game and you could really feel the energy in the building. I think if last night's game, if we're on the road and we're up 3-1 and they came back and tied it, I don't know if we have that push coming, but I think our fans helped us there."
However, the Stars will face a tough opponent in the Predators (12-3-0, 24 points), who are 7-0-0 on the road this year after a 4-1 win at Colorado on Wednesday.
Nashville's Colton Sissons had a hat trick against Colorado and admits he can't explain why the Predators have been unbeatable away from home so far this season.
"We just stay focused and do our thing," Sissons said. "I don't know if being on the road and just thinking hockey helps us. We've just been playing confident and playing really sharp on the road so far."
Nashville also sports the NHL's best goal differential at plus-20 and is currently two games into a five-game road trip.