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Predators 4, Wild 2 @NHLdotcom

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Nashville Predators may not have their top goaltender for the postseason, but they will start the playoffs at home.

Mike Sillinger scored two goals, and the Predators clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs on their first try with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night with their fourth straight victory.

"It's nice to have two goals, but home ice is nicer," Sillinger said.

Nashville came into the game needing only two points to clinch the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, and even an Anaheim loss in regulation at Edmonton later Thursday night would have clinched the highest seeding yet for a franchise making only its second playoff appearance.

But the Predators erased the need to wait and watch with new No. 1 goaltender Chris Mason stopping 28 shots for his fourth straight victory since replacing Tomas Vokoun, whose season was cut short by blood clots.

"It's the evolution of our team, trying to go to that next level," said Nashville captain Greg Johnson, who became the first player in franchise history to play 500 games with the Predators. "It's a natural progression, and our next goal is win a series and go from there."

Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber each had a goal and an assist, and Scottie Upshall added three assists for the Predators who wrap up the season with two more games at home. With the victory, they also tied idle Carolina for most home victories in the NHL, improving to 30-8-1.

"That was really important for us," said Mason, who improved to 10-5-1 this season. "We really wanted it ... It's so important for us to go into the playoffs playing like this."

Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said the Predators will have a chance in the playoffs.

"It depends on what this guy (Mason) is going to do. You lose your top goalie, not a good thing before the playoffs," Lemaire said.

Brian Rolston and Wes Walz each scored goals for Minnesota.

The Wild came in with postseason hopes already extinguished. But Minnesota had won four of its past five games and gave goalie Josh Harding his third career NHL start. In his last start, he earned his first shutout with a 2-0 win over Chicago on Tuesday.

"Josh played terrific for us tonight," Rolston said. "We didn't give him a lot of support."

Hamhuis beat Harding by redirecting a pass from David Legwand off the goalie's right foot for a 1-0 lead at 17:03 of the first period.

The Wild tied the game 1-1 28 seconds into the second as Rolston scored his 34th goal this season on the power play, throwing the puck through traffic. Minnesota tried to slow down the Predators in a game that featured a combined 20 penalties for more than 25 minutes.

Sillinger put Nashville ahead to stay with his 30th, chasing the puck, spinning and sweeping it off Harding's left foot into the net at 4:03 of the second. Weber padded the lead with his second goal on the power play off an assist from Paul Kariya with a one-timer from the left circle.

Within the first two minutes of the third, Sillinger made it 4-1 on a slapshot that bounced in from the corner of the post.

"Everyone is playing well," Sillinger said. "We just need to get healthy and keep going."

Rolston said Nashville's power play remains deadly with the Predators scoring twice on six chances against the NHL's best penalty killers.

"I would put them up there with some of the best in the league, toughest to play against at least," he said. "And they didn't even have (Marek) Zidlicky in there or (Steve) Sullivan."

Sullivan, Nashville's second-leading scorer, sat out his sixth straight game with a groin injury, and Zidlicky has missed eight with an injured shoulder.

Notes: Johnson is one of three players still on the roster from the 1998 expansion draft with Scott Walker and Vokoun. ... Minnesota dropped to 11-25-4 when allowing the opponent to score first. ... Wild right wing Pierre-Marc Bouchard extended his points streak with his assist, and he now has nine points in 11 games. ... Predators left wing Scott Hartnell and center Yanic Perreault were healthy scratches.

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