The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators have a very high-profile meeting upcoming on Jan. 1 for the Winter Classic at the world-renowned Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. But first, they met at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. for a tune-up on Saturday night.

All of the action seemed to come in the second period and almost all of that action was provided by the road team as the Stars outscored Nashville 4-1, but the game is only a microcosm of a great NHL rivalry budding in the south.

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Nashville opened the scoring when forward Austin Watson deflected Dan Hamhuis’ turn-around shot past Anton Khudobin. Just over five minutes,  Dallas took a 2-1 lead following tallies from Blake Comeau and Roope Hintz.

Jamie Oleksiak extended the Stars’ lead to two goals on a swift move in front of Pekka Rinne. The play earned the 26-year-old defenseman his first goal as a Star ā€” he was traded to Dallas by Pittsburgh last season.

Andrew Cogliano put the game out of reach late in the second period with the Stars’ fourth tally, setting up a smooth-sailing third.

Looking at the Central Division after Saturday’s slate of games, Dallas (19-11-4) jumped to third with 42 points while the Predators (14-12-5) sit next-to-last at 33 points, in front of the Chicago Blackhawks (30 points). Dallas has been on a tear since starting 1-7-1, getting at least a point in 21 of its last 25 games while Nashville hasn’t been able to get in a groove, not winning more than two games in a row since a four-game run in late October, its only three-plus game win streak of the season.

Winter Classic uniforms: Dallas Stars | Nashville Predators

Regardless of how things shake out between now and the start of the new year, they will meet again on New Year’s Day in one of the United States’ most historic venues.

Texas will play host to the first Winter Classic in the south and, fittingly, the invitee is another southern hockey franchise with a growing love for the fastest game on ice. Home of the annual Texas/Oklahoma Big XII football clash, the 1994 FIFA World Cup and now, the 2020 NHL Winter Classic, Cotton Bowl Stadium is rather different than previous host stadiums.

Nashville and Dallas met in the playoffs last season with the Stars pushing the Central Division champions out of the race for the Cup in six games. Neither franchise has hoisted the Cup since the turn of the century (Dallas won in 1999) while both teams have lost in the Finals since then (Dallas in 2000, Nashville in 2017).

Saturday’s game was the only meeting between the two teams this season before the Winter Classic. They will face twice more in a home-and-home on March 5 and March 7 to finish out the season series.

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