Nashville hosts Anaheim in first of two huge home matches this week

It’s way too early to say that the Nashville Predators will make or break their season (and their opponents’ seasons) in the next two games, but each one of those contests sport a “steel cage match in Wrestlemania” feel.

While winning both games in regulation won’t guarantee the Predators a playoff berth, earning success against the Anaheim Ducks tonight and the Dallas Stars on Saturday would absolutely go a long way in helping them get the job done. In a matter of three days, Nashville could earn a nice cushion or be in some serious trouble in the Western Conference playoff race.

Tonight’s game is a should-win for the Predators because the Ducks are coming off a dramatic and emotional win against the Stars in Dallas last night. Neither one of those teams are just going to roll over for Nashville, but with home ice advantage on their side, the Predators would deeply regret letting these opportunities slip through their fingers.

After all, the Predators might hold a lead over the Ducks and Stars, but they have some disadvantages going for them as well. Let’s take a look at the West bubble, via NBC’s standings.

So the Predators have the most points (88), but one less game remaining than the Ducks and Stars. The Ducks lead the pack with wins (41) so they likely would earn a tie-breaker if things trend the same way.

Again, it’s incorrect to boil this race down to those two games, even for the Predators. They will enjoy a very friendly closing schedule, with six of their last eight at home.

Still, there aren’t many contests left and this might be their best chance to “control their destiny” by actually playing against the two clubs most likely to foil their plans. It should be intriguing to watch and we’ll keep you up to date on how it all plays out.

Teuvo time: Teravainen to open with Toews, Hossa

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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Teuvo Teravainen has played both center and right wing over the course of his brief NHL career.

Now, he’s got a new position — left wing — and a pair of shiny new linemates to boot.

Teravainen will open the year playing alongside captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa, per the Sun-Times.

The move could be a boon for the young Finn. Several ex-Chicago wingers thrived playing alongside Toews and Hossa, most notably Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of production Teravainen, who just turned 21 last month, can manufacture on Chicago’s top line. His numbers from last year weren’t spectacular (nine points in 34 games), but he did a solid job of racking up points en route to the Stanley Cup, with 10 in 18 games.

It’ll also be interesting to see how long he sticks with Toews and Hossa.

Head coach Joel Quenneville has been known as a frequent user of the line blender, often switching up his combos at at moment’s notice.

That said, Quenneville is hoping to find some stability with this new-look group.

“[Teuvo will] play there to start the season,” he said. “Hopefully, all year.”

‘Great story’ Janmark surprises, makes Dallas roster

Brian Elliott, Mattias Janmark-Nylen
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Pretty cool story out of Texas, where Mattias Janmark, the 22-year-old rookie that’s played a grand total of nine games in North America, has defied the odds to make the Stars’ opening-night roster.

“It’s a great story,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said, per the Morning News. “We really only planned to have him here for maybe two preseason games and then send him back. But he just kept being one of the best players out there, and he changed our minds.

“It’s a great example of what you can do if you just play hard.”

Nill acquired Janmark, 22, from Detroit at last year’s deadline as part of the Erik Cole trade. Nill was familiar with the Swedish forward from his time with the Wings — he was part of the front office team that drafted Janmark in ’13 — but didn’t think the deal would pay such immediate dividends.

As for Janmark, he didn’t even think he’d be in North America this year.

He has a contract with SHL club Frolunda, where he scored 36 points in 55 games last year. Given he’s barely played in the AHL — a few games with Grand Rapids, a few with Texas — Janmark figured he’d be back in Europe this season.

His strong play in the exhibition season changed all that. Janmark beat out two of Dallas’ touted prospects — former AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie, and ’12 first-rounder Radek Faksa — for a roster spot, and showed good chemistry with third-line center Cody Eakin.

Janmark also performed well on a line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.