WILD (11-9-2) at PREDATORS (10-9-5)
TV: FS-North, FS-Wisconsin, FS-Tennessee
Last 10: Minnesota 5-4-1; Nashville 3-6-1
Season series: This is the last of three meetings, and the first at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators won 3-1 on Jan. 22, and the Wild took a 2-1 overtime decision Feb. 9.
Big story: This is the first game in Nashville for Wild defenseman Ryan Suter since he left the Predators as a free agent during the summer. He had two assists in the second game played in Minnesota and averaged 28:29 of ice time in the pair.
His presence likely will overshadow -- at least for the fans -- the importance of this game in the standings: The Predators are 10th in the Western Conference with 25 points, one ahead of the Wild, who have two games in hand, and one point behind four teams occupying fifth through eighth.
"Whatever happens, happens," Suter said Friday when asked about the possible crowd reaction. "They pay the money, they can do whatever they want. Obviously I have a lot of respect for them. The Predators are a great organization and they wouldn't be that without the fans that they have. It's exciting to be back here and I just look forward to the game."
Wild: Suter is earning his money in the first year of his 13-year, $98 million contract, even though he has a minus-6 rating.
He leads the team in time on ice (27:07 per game), power-play time and shorthanded time; is tied with forward Mikko Koivu for most assists (14); and scored his first goal of the season in Minnesota's most recent game, a 5-3 loss Tuesday to the Chicago Blackhawks, to extend his point streak to five games.
"I'm excited, obviously a little nervous coming back into the building," Suter said. "[I'm] definitely excited to be here. … I didn't think I'd be that nervous until I actually showed up at the rink here, but it's part of it, also an exciting part too."
More exciting for the Wild is the return of forward Cal Clutterbuck, who was injured when kneed by Edmonton's Taylor Hall on Feb. 21.
"We pride ourselves on being a physical team and he really helps us get to that part of our game," coach Mike Yeo said of Clutterbuck.
With the Wild having lost two of three leading into this circled date, they will be looking to move on from it when the final horn sounds.
"It'll be good to put it behind us," Suter said. "Hopefully in the future it won't be such a big deal and we just go about it like any other city."
Predators: Perhaps Nashville got a boost from a home crowd anticipating Suter's arrival. After losing three in a row and five of six, the Predators erupted to beat the Edmonton Oilers 6-0 on Friday, setting the stage for Saturday's reunion.
"I'm not sure how [Suter will] be received, I can't speak for the fans," coach Barry Trotz told NHL.com's Dan Rosen. "But I know the organization and the fans always treat our players with class when the player moves on to another team. This situation, I'm not sure which way it will go. He sort of left us. I'm not sure how it will be, what their response will be. The fans will let you know. I don't want to guess."
Prior to Friday, the Predators had scored one goal three times and were shut out twice in the six-game slide. The Predators are 9-1-4 when they score more than one goal.
"The big missing ingredient is that our forwards are just not scoring at all," general manager David Poile told Fox Sports during the game. Five forwards scored Friday, including newcomer Zach Boychuk.
The Predators claimed Boychuk and Bobby Butler off waivers this week, and called up defenseman Victor Bartley from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. All three made their debut Friday in an effort to add points -- and make a point.
"It's just a message to our players that we're not happy with where we are, and it gives our coaches some latitude with lineup changes," Poile said of the roster moves.
Nashville starts a five-game road trip Tuesday at Dallas.
Who's hot: Wild forward Devin Setoguchi has a five-game point streak. Koivu has six points in his past five games. … With four points Friday, Predators forward Colin Wilson has 18 in his past 17 games. Defenseman Shea Weber has 11 points in his past 11 games. Forward Rich Clune has finished with an even or plus rating in all but two of his 37 career games. Forward Paul Gaustad has the top faceoff winning percentage in the League (.616). Nashville was leading the League in fewest penalty minutes per game (9.8).
Injury report: The Wild recalled goalie Matt Hackett on Friday to replace goalie Darcy Kuemper (groin). Goalie Josh Harding is sidelined by symptoms related to multiple sclerosis. … Predators forward Patrick Hornqvist (upper body) left Friday's game in the second period after he was checked into the boards and won't play. Forward Brandon Yip (upper body) and defenseman Hal Gill (lower body) are out.
|Back to top|