The Nashville Predators were looking to clinch their ticket to the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs last night at Bridgestone Arena. For the Preds, it was imperative to get a good start and not play from behind, as seen in the Vancouver game. The Predators would give up three goals before 11:40 of the first period, and would have to dig themselves out. Before the end of the first period, Nashville pulled the game to within two as Craig Smith scored his 20th goal of the season at 17:08.

Going into the third, Nashville was still down 3-1 and pressing to score after a lackluster first period and a more competitive second period. At 12:13 of the period, Shawn Matthias (10) gave the Avalanche another goal to put the Colorado lead to 4-1. The Predators pressed and was able to get two goals in 24 seconds from Colton Sissons (14:58) and Roman Josi (15:22). The bad start would come back to haunt them because they weren’t able to get the equalizer, and the Preds lost 4-3.

Keys to Watch

Begin with Purpose

The Nashville Predators are one of the best teams in the NHL during the third period. The Preds are ranked 5th in the NHL with a total of 81 goals in the final frame. The first period is where they traditionally struggle. Nashville only has 58 goals in the first period. The game against Colorado is exactly what not to do this late in the season. Giving up three goals and leaving Pekka Rinne out to dry is not acceptable. The Dallas Stars will not allow you to come back in to the game with a bad start. They are currently second in the NHL, behind the Washington Capitals, with 89 goals in the third period. A strong start could mean the difference between clinching a spot in the playoffs or back to the drawing board.

Great at Home

The Dallas Stars are in a fight to win the Central Division against the St. Louis Blues. Both teams have an identical record of 45-22-9 and 99 total points. This team wants to win the division and it is within their sights. The Stars have played well against the Central Division with a record of 16-7-3. The Stars are 4-1-1 in their last six games in Dallas and are tied for sixth in the NHL with 50 points (24-11-2) inside of American Airlines Center. On the flip-side, the Preds are 11-2-2 in their last 15 away games. Tonight’s match-up will not be easy for either side.

Stopping Hemsky

Ales Hemsky has been playing well for the Stars over the recent set of matches. Hemsky is averaging a point per game over the last ten games with four goals and six assists. The Pardubice, Czech Republic native has played well while being on the third line with Antoine Roussel and Travis Moen. The Predators will need to keep tabs on Hemsky. With his current streak, he could be the player for Dallas to beat you when you least expect it.

The Predators will try again to clinch their ticket for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs in Dallas tonight. Be sure to catch all of the action on Fox Sports-Tennessee or you can listen live on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 7:00 pm!