WILD (45-27-8) at PREDATORS (47-23-10)
TV: FS-N, FS-WI, FS-TN
NASHVILLE -- Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s run of 39 consecutive starts will end Thursday when Darcy Kuemper will start against the Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, FS-TN).
Kuemper has not started a game since Jan. 6, a 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks. He said he’s been trying to keep his game a sharp as possible while practicing, but understands it will be different at game speed.
“Try to compete as much as I can, try to make practices as game-like as possible and try to keep myself as sharp as I can,” Kuemper said. “Obviously practice isn’t exactly like a game, but you’ve got to do your best to make it as close as you can.”
In addition to resting Dubnyk, Minnesota, who clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, will scratch forwards Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, and Thomas Vanek. The roster will look different against the Predators, but Minnesota said it expects a return to a normal lineup Saturday against the St. Louis Blues.
“All three of those guys, it’s not a matter of resting them,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s just something that’s a little bit nagging with them that I think the three games in four days gives us an opportunity to take them out of the lineup today. I don’t foresee us resting anybody come Saturday. I think having a full week off would not do anybody service of helping them to get ready.”
The game against the Predators could potentially be a preview of a first-round matchup in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Wild, but they said they aren’t thinking about that yet.
“There’s far too many scenarios right now,” Yeo said. “We could play anybody so I spend very little time thinking if we’re going to play St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago, or Anaheim. They’re all possibilities so it’s just about trying to make sure a lot of the decisions we’re making right now are just based on trying to get our game ready for the playoffs.”
Nashville has lost four consecutive games (0-2-2) after clinching a playoff berth on March 28 with a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals. The territorial play has largely been controlled by Nashville in those games, but mistakes are costing them defensively.
“Maybe a little bit more execution but aside from that, we’ve been playing well and getting our chances,” Predators forward Colin Wilson said. “It’s just been unfortunate the way it’s kind of ended up. It’s an 82 game schedule so some games it’s just going to happen like that. Keep playing the way we are, and good things will happen.”
The Predators said they are happy with the offensive looks they have been getting, but they’ve had trouble capitalizing on those chances.
“I think there’s obviously more we can do,” Wilson said. “You can never be satisfied when you lose so there’s more that we could be doing but at the same time, it’s not like the chances aren’t there. It’s not like we aren’t trying to do the things right. We just need to play with a little bit more intensity all around.”
Nashville can clinch home-ice advantage in the first round with a regulation or overtime win.
Here are the projected lineups:
Sean Bergenheim – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Chris Stewart
Matt Cooke – Charlie Coyle – Jordan Schroeder
Ryan Carter – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella – Jared Spurgeon
Nate Prosser – Matt Dumba
Scratched: Devan Dubnyk, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Erik Haula, Christian Folin, Jordan Leopold
Injured: Keith Ballard (concussion, facial fractures)
Filip Forsberg – Mike Ribeiro – James Neal
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Craig Smith
Matt Cullen – Calle Jarnkrok – Viktor Stalberg
Gabriel Bourque – Paul Gaustad – Taylor Beck
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm – Seth Jones
Ryan Ellis – Cody Franson
Scratched: Victor Bartley, Anton Volchenkov, Mike Santorelli
Injured: Eric Nystrom (lower body)
Status report: Cooke will return to the lineup for the Wild after missing 30 games with a sports hernia. … Backstrom will be the backup for Kuemper. … Nashville will go with the same lineup as Tuesday night. … Nashville signed forward Steve Moses, who set the Kontinental Hockey League record for goals in a season (36) in 2014-15. Moses isn’t eligible to play until next season.
Who’s hot: Pominville has one goal and three assists in his past four games. … Ellis has two goals in the past two games and has scored a career-high nine goals.