Stars-Predators Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Stars were in an ideal position to make the playoffs before this three-game losing streak.

No longer in control of their postseason destiny, the Stars are on the brink of elimination Thursday night when they visit a Nashville Predators team looking to gain home-ice advantage in the first round.

Dallas (42-33-5) is enduring its longest slide since Feb. 10-14, and this one looks like it will cost the team a playoff spot. The Stars are now three points behind eighth-place San Jose in the Western Conference after back-to-back losses to the Sharks, 3-0 on the road Saturday and 5-2 at home Tuesday.

With a chance to overtake the Sharks in front of a big home crowd, the Stars blew a 2-1 lead by conceding the final four goals.

"That one stings," captain Brenden Morrow said. "You'd like to be able to control your own fate, we had that tonight and we let it go and now we're going to need a lot of help."

The Stars would be eliminated with a regulation loss Thursday. A victory would guarantee they stay alive at least one more day.

Dallas is 0 for 11 on the power play in its last four games, going 0 for 6 during the slide to drop to an NHL-worst 14.0 percent. The Stars' top four goal scorers - Michael Ryder, Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro - have failed to score in the last three contests.

"You have to move forward," coach Glen Gulutzan told the Stars' official website. "Now we need help and you just start preparing, getting ready for Nashville. There's no other way to look at it. There's no other way, it's just business as usual and go win the game."

Dallas has won two of three this season against Nashville (46-26-8) by getting a combined 18 points from Ryder, Eriksson, Benn and Ribeiro.

The playoff-bound Predators, though, have plenty of incentive heading into their final two games. They trail Detroit by one point in the race for the West's No. 4 seed.

Nashville will also have Pekka Rinne back in goal after he sat out Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota with a virus. Rinne returned to practice Wednesday.

"Hopefully it's over with now," Rinne told the Predators' official website. "It kind of takes all the life out of you and all the energy out of you. I feel 100 percent better today and it was good to get back out there and sweat a little bit and have a good practice there."

Nashville hasn't been playing its best hockey while splitting its last eight games. Gabriel Bourque had the Predators' lone goal Tuesday.

"The win is the most important thing," captain Shea Weber said. "Obviously, we're somewhat in control of where we can finish. We can guarantee ourselves fifth. We've got to keep going."

The Predators would clinch at least the No. 5 seed with a victory Thursday.

Patric Hornqvist leads Nashville with 25 goals, but has failed to score in his last seven games against Dallas.

The Predators have the NHL's top power play, converting 21.9 percent, and they're 3 for 10 in the season series. They've held the Stars without a power-play goal in eight chances.

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