Since the Predators and Wild last played each other, it has been a tale of two very different teams. The Wild have only won 2 of their last 7 games and stand 11th in the conference with a 4-5-1 record. The Predators have set alight the Western Conference since playing the Wild, winning their last four games and getting 9 out of a possible 14 points on their 7-game road trip.
The Wild will be looking to finally get a win since beating Chicago in a shootout on January 30th. Nashville is trying to keep riding the wave of scoring and solid goaltending that have been crucial in their win streak.
Game time is at 7 P.M. Central and can be heard on 102.5 the Game and viewed locally on FS Tennessee.
Since besting Chicago, the Minnesota Wild have struggled to put the puck in the net. Minnesota has only scored one goal in each of their last three games and have allowed 9 goals in that span. Zach Parise continues to live up to his contract signed over the summer pacing the Wild with 10 points in 10 games with 6 goals (also leading Wild).
The other blockbuster contract handed out by Minnesota to Ryan Suter has many yet unconvinced that he is living up to the expectations. Suter has 4 points (all assists) in the first 10 games. His -7, however, puts Ryan Suter only 7 spots above dead last in the league for defenseman plus/minus ratings (his defensive partner Jared Spurgeon is -3).
The Predators are finally getting a taste of the expectations confirmed in Colin Wilson. After scoring three assists in the 6-1 rout of St. Louis on Tuesday, Colin Wilson came out with 2 goals against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings Thursday night. Wilson has 6 points in his last 3 games and is now tied with Martin Erat for the team lead in points.
Pekka Rinne has returned to Vezina-consideration form as he has performed admirably in the four game winning streak posting a save percentage of 0.974 and a goals-against average of 0.97. The Predators offense has sparked (despite a lack of shots on goal) tallying 11 goals over the last four games of the streak. The contributions have been throughout the lineup: prime example the St. Louis game where 6 different Predators scored a goal (Bourque, Clune, Erat, Klein, Spaling, Ellis).
The expected lineup for the Predators (had 7 defenseman against L.A.):
Rinne (possibly Mason gets the start due to the back-to-back and Chicago coming up Sunday)
For the Wild to win: Use the last three losses as motivation to start a winning streak. Dany Heatley will need to continue his dominance over the Predators (1 goals this season, 6 points last season). The Wild offensive contributors other than Heatley have to make their presence known early and often against the red-hot Pekka Rinne.
Speaking of goaltending, Backstrom can provide much needed assistance. His numbers have been average this year, but the Finnish netminder has the ability to be a game changer. If the Wild can stave off the offensive output of the Predators and screen Rinne, they have the ability to steal a game in Minnesota and start to turn things around before a tough back-to-back next week.
For the Predators to win: Stay consistent. The lack of shots on goal is still unnerving many fans of the Fang, but the Predators shot selection and ability to get pucks past the goalie have Nashville riding high over the last four games. Against St. Louis and L.A., the Predators amassed 9 goals, many being great rebound, deflection and second chance scores.
Getting dirty in front of the net has been the key to Predator success for many years. One of the best on the team is Patric Hornqvist who is still out with an injury, but many have stepped up to fill his sizable role in the gritty blue-ice. Weber finally dismissed the elephant in the room scoring his first point of the year which gives great hope to the team as his slow start last season ended with him getting yet another Norris trophy nod.