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Hot teams meet as Wild visit Nashville

by John Kreiser

WILD (34-29-6) at PREDATORS (39-26-5)

Last 10 -- Minnesota 5-3-2; Nashville 7-3-0

Season series -- It's the fourth and final meeting of the season, with the Predators needing a victory to gain a split. Nashville won 4-3 at Minnesota on Oct. 28, but the Wild won 5-4 in overtime on Dec. 2 and 5-3 at Nashville three nights later.

Big story -- The Predators blew a 3-1 lead in the third period against Philadelphia on Tuesday but won 4-3 in a shootout for their third consecutive victory and fourth in five games. They are solidly in seventh place and hoping to move up. The Wild come to Bridgestone Arena with a three-game winning streak, but they're running out of time in their push for a playoff berth -- they start the night six points behind eighth-place Detroit with 13 games to play.

Team Scope:

Wild -- Minnesota has gotten at least one point in seven of their last its games, is trying to win four in a row for the first time since Jan. 6-13. The Wild won their third in a row by beating last-place Edmonton 4-2 on Tuesday.

"It's been like that for a month or so. We know we can't lose a game," said goaltender Josh Harding, who had 34 saves and has been in goal for all three wins. "We have to keep this little ball rolling. If we don't, come playoff time we'll be on the outside looking in."

Predators -- Nashville is 19-12-2 at home and plays eight of its final 12 games in Nashville -- and only three of those matchups are against teams currently in playoff position.

"We want to establish our home building as a tough place to play and it's always been like that and we want to keep it that way," said goaltender Pekka Rinne, who is 5-2-1 in his last eight home starts and has earned more and more playing time at the expense of Dan Ellis.

Who's hot -- Harding has won three consecutive starts for the first time since Jan. 10-Jan. 13, 2008, that he has won three straight. Harding has won four in a row once in his career -- from Dec. 14-Dec. 20, 2007. … Rinne has been in goal for each game of the Predators' three-game winning streak. He's coming off a season-best 42-save performance against the Flyers. Nashville's Patric Hornqvist has 3 goals and 4 points in his last four games. The Swedish Olympian is tied for the League lead in game-winning goals (8), and has the fewest NHL games experience (97) and the lowest averaged ice time (15:35) among players with at least 26 goals.

Injury report -- Harding has gotten the chance to play because Nicklas Backstrom injured his groin during the morning skate a week ago. Defensemen Brent Burns (hip) and Shane Hnidy (leg) sat out again on Tuesday. … Nashville defenseman Denis Grebeshkov is still out with a lower-body injury.

Stat pack -- Nashville captain Jason Arnott has 7 goals and 2 assists in his last six games against Minnesota, including 3 goals and an assist in two games this season. Rinne has given up 11 goals in his last two starts against the Wild, including a 5-4 overtime loss on Dec. 2. … This is only the second time in the Predators' history that they've played on March 18; the first time was a 3-2 loss to Montreal on March 18, 1999, during their inaugural season.

Puck drop -- The Predators need the win; the Wild are desperate for it. Minnesota has almost no wiggle room left if it hopes to overcome its early stumbles and make the playoffs. The Wild have had a lot of success against the Preds, and they need another win to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

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