WILD (35-25-7) at PREDATORS (33-24-10)
TV: FS-N (HD), FS-TN (HD)
Minnesota 5-3-2; Nashville 3-5-2
Fourth and final meeting of the season between these teams -- after Minnesota got a pair of Martin Havlat goals and won the opener 5-2 at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 26, Nashville has won the last two by a combined 9-2 score. Joel Ward scored a goal in each game.
We're about to find out if plenty of home cooking will be the recipe to get the Predators into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Over this final month of the regular season, they have homestands of five, four and three games, respectively. Only three road games remain on the schedule, none of them consecutive. Now it's up to Nashville to take advantage.
Like its opponent, Minnesota is right on the cusp of the top eight in the Western Conference, but it's been almost a month since the Wild put consecutive wins together. They'll have the chance to do so Thursday after rallying for a 5-2 win over the Avalanche on Tuesday. Andrew Brunette tied the score late in the second with a power-play goal and the Wild scored three in the third to emerge with the two points. John Madden notched the go-ahead goal.
"You need those guys on the team. They bring a lot of confidence in the room," goalie Niklas Backstrom
said. "They've been in this situation a lot of times in past years, so they're really key guys for us. The bigger the game, the bigger the situation, they're usually stepping up."
While you couldn't call Nashville's final road trip of the season a smashing success, at least the Predators found a way to compile four of a possible eight points with a 1-1-2 record. They got power-play goals by Ward and Shea Weber
to wipe out a pair of one-goal deficits against the Sharks on Tuesday, but fell 3-2 in overtime when Patrick Marleau scored. The extra point would have helped, but the players understand there's nothing they can do about it now.
"I'd say we let points get away that are very crucial, especially with this points race," defenseman Cody Franson told the Tennessean. "Our schedule is definitely in our hands, and we have to try to take advantage of that the best we can and get two points rather than squeezing out one every night."
Havlat has 2 goals and 5 assists during a five-game points streak for the Wild, as well as 5 goals and 6 assists over his last 10 games. … Martin Erat
has 1 goal and 4 assists during a three-game points streak for the Predators.
Minnesota forward Cal Clutterbuck
(upper body) and defenseman Clayton Stoner
(lower body) are day-to-day. Forward Mikko Koivu
(broken finger) is on injured reserve. … Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon
(upper body) and forwards Steve Sullivan (groin), Marcel Goc (shoulder), Cal O'Reilly
(broken fibula) and Matthew Lombardi (concussion) are on injured reserve.
Half of Brunette's 16 goals this season have come on the power play, and he leads the Wild in that category. … Predators goalie Pekka Rinne
has a 2.12 goals-against average and .929 save percentage this season, both ranking second in the NHL to the Bruins' Tim Thomas.
With the trade deadline come and gone, what you see is what you'll get with most teams the rest of the way, but Minnesota has a key addition with forward Guillaume Latendresse
back in the lineup. He missed 58 games due to injury. Latendresse was plus-1 with three shots on Tuesday.
"It's nice having that big body back out in front of the net," coach Todd Richards said.