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Predators, Wild heading in different directions

by Tal Pinchevsky

PREDATORS (5-2-3) at WILD (4-5-1)

TV: FS-Tennessee, FS-North, FS-Wisconsin

Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the teams this season. The Predators won 3-1 in Minnesota on Jan. 22, and they'll wrap their season series in Nashville on March 9. The Predators won the season series last season with a 3-1-0 record.

Big story: These two clubs appear to be going in opposite directions as the season ends its third week. After losing five of their first six games to start the season, Nashville has won four straight and outscored two strong teams (Los Angeles and St. Louis) 9-1 in its last two games. The Wild posted a 4-2-1 record in January but have gone 0-3-0 in February and have been outscored 9-3 in the process.

Team Scope:

Predators: With three shootout losses in their first five games this season, the Predators were managing to get points but had difficulty winning. Their luck started to turn at the end of January when they won back-to-back shootouts against the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. After a surprising 6-1 win against the St. Louis Blues to finish a season-long seven-game road trip, the Predators hoped to extend their win streak at home against the Kings on Thursday.

Hosting the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Predators struck early with Gabriel Bourque beating Jonathan Quick to open the scoring just 2:54 into the game. From there, Colin Wilson took over in the second period, scoring twice in six minutes, the second courtesy of an assist from captain Shea Weber for his first point of the season. Pekka Rinne stopped all 32 shots he faced and Nashville ran its win streak to four games with a 3-0 win despite being outshot 32-14.

"The last few games I think we have been doing a really good job defensively," Rinne said. "It is way easier for me to control my rebounds, and if I leave a rebound laying around they are always there to save my butt."

Wild: With three straight losses to open February, the Wild are looking to rebound and rekindle the hot play that carried them through January. In order to do that, they'll have to start scoring goals. They've scored a single goal in each of their last three games and haven't scored more than two goals in a game since a 3-2 win against Columbus on Jan. 29.

On Thursday, the Wild got off to a rough start against the first-place Vancouver Canucks. Daniel Sedin and Chris Higgins scored in the first period and two goals 1:35 apart in the second chased starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who allowed four goals on 16 shots. Josh Harding stopped all six shots he faced and Tom Gilbert scored for the Wild in the third, but Minnesota lost 4-1, its third straight defeat.

"It's tough to come back in this League, especially when you're down a couple goals," Gilbert said. "I just don't think we got to our game right away, and we let them dictate the way they wanted to play the game."

Who's hot: Wilson has been leading the Nashville attack with five points in his last three games, while Martin Erat has three points in two games since returning from an injury Tuesday. … With three points in his last four games, Matt Cullen has been among the Wild's more consistent offensive contributors lately.

Injury report: Nashville is missing forward Patric Hornqvist, who is on injured reserve with a sprained knee. … Minnesota's lone injury is defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who is out with a bruised foot.

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