Still hoping to finish fourth, Preds host Wild
Monday, 04.02.2012 / 7:16 PM
David Kalan - NHL.com Staff WriterWILD (34-35-10) at PREDATORS (45-26-8)
: FS-N (HD), FS-WI (HD), FS-TN (HD)
: Minnesota 5-5-0; Nashville 4-5-1.
: Nashville took a 2-1 lead in the season series in its last meeting with Minnesota, a 5-4 win on Jan. 31 at the Xcel Energy Center.
: We already know a few things about both these teams. Nashville will still be playing with the playoffs open next week and Minnesota will not. But even with the Wild's season on its last legs they can have plenty of influence against the Preds in their season series finale, as Nashville can still wind up in one of three different positions in the West's top eight -- and unless they make a move in the standings they may wind up in the least advantageous one.
: Minnesota's season started out with so much promise under new coach Mike Yeo, seizing the Northwest Division lead and being in playoff contention for most of 2011-12. However, the Wild have tumbled down the standings in the second half meaning the last three games on their regular season schedule will be the last three played by Minnesota until this fall.
That doesn't mean the Wild haven't put on a good show lately however. Despite being 12th in the West, Minnesota has managed to win three games in a row, with each victory coming against a team that is already in the playoffs or likely to be there. The Wild's most impressive win might have been their last one, a 5-4 shootout victory in the notoriously tough United Center of Chicago. There is still one thing for the Wild to be wary of, however. All three of those games came in overtime or a shootout. In fact, the Wild haven't won in regulation since March 19, a span of seven games.
: West has been jam packed all season long and the final week is no different. Nashville has already sealed a berth in the 2012 postseason, but where they'll start up is yet to be determined, and it could play a significant role in just how far the Predators manage to get. Nashville is currently in the 5th seed, which would pit it against Detroit in a brutal 4-vs.-5 matchup in the first round. The Preds only trail the Wings by one point, for that fourth seed, however, and given the home ice involved -- and Detroit's remarkable record at home this season -- leap-frogging their division rival could pay huge dividends.
It is worth noticing, however, that Chicago isn't out of the jumble either. The Blackhawks, in sixth place are just one point behind Nashville and two behind Detroit, and should the Predators get jumped and drop to the sixth seed, it may not be the worst thing for them. Instead of a tough matchup with either Detroit or Chicago, two teams that know Nashville well, the Preds would wind up facing the weakest division winner, arguably an easy first-round draw.
: Mikko Koivu
has two goals and three assists in his last four games for Minnesota. ... Shea Weber
has been lighting it up from Nashville's blue line, tallying six points in his last six games.
: Steven Kampfer
is expected to miss the remember of the season for Minnesota with a sprained knee, while Warren Peters
is considered questionable with an upper-body injury. Nashville is completely healthy with the exception of Brian McGrattan
, who has been out indefinitely since February with an upper-body injury.
: When the Predators brought Alexander Radulov
back into the fold recently, many wondered if his offensive gifts would need time to adapt to the NHL game -- or if they would even translate at all. That question appears to be answered, as Radulov has three goals and three assists in his first six games back in the world's top circuit.
: Minnesota may not have much left to play for at this point in the season, but competitors love to make things difficult on opponents still in the mix and the Wild are a shining example of it. To make the playoffs one season ago, Dallas simply needed to win at home in its last game against a Minnesota Wild
team that was three hours from its summer vacation. The Wild played spoiler and made sure the Stars would be staying home, too. Nashville will be in for a test Tuesday night.