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Familiar Central Division foes skate against one another to open the season. The Dallas Stars are headed to Nashville for an opener against the Predators.
The two had a very thin line between them last season. The Stars ended with a marginally better record, 46-30-6 versus 45-30-7, and slightly more points, 98 to 97. Dallas scored fewer goals by nearly 30 and only allowed six fewer. All shaken loose, both made the playoffs and showed signs of encouragement.
Expect a similar situation this year.
The Stars figure to have both Jason Robertson and Miro Heiskanen continue to develop. Robertson enters this season with a new contract and only in his age 23 season. He scored 41 goals and added 38 assists last season. Heiskanen had already established himself as a top defender but with the departure of John Klingberg, he could be tasked with being more selfish and to add scoring.
Filip Forsberg comes into this season with a new eight-year deal and as the leading scorer in franchise history. Forsberg was a controversial addition to the roster when the front office moved Martin Erat to the Capitals. It seems to have worked out well. He pairs with one of the best defenders in the league, Roman Josi. Add in that Nashville stole Ryan McDonagh from Tampa and the scale starts to tip a little more.
The difference maker between these teams is — and will be — Juuse Saros.
Saros has continued to improve and is arguably, if not easily, a Top 3 goalie in the NHL. He has posted GAAs of 2.28 and 2.64 the last two years. His ability to more laterally and cover both posts seemingly simultaneously is hard to equal.
A lone knock on Saros is that he wore down last year as the season progressed. That will not be a problem on opening night. Nashville is an electric city for hockey and the Predators are better than the Stars.
Get your fang-fingers ready and bet Nashville to win to get your free $200 from BetMGM when they score a goal!