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Predators-Wild Preview @NHLdotcom
Predators-Wild Preview

GAME: Nashville Predators (31-12-6) at Minnesota Wild (24-21-4).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.

Two days in Detroit allowed the Nashville Predators to move into a tie with the Red Wings atop the Central Division. Now the Predators hope to find themselves alone in first place at the end of play Thursday when they take on the Minnesota Wild, who are looking to win five in a row for the first time in franchise history.

Nashville was three points behind the Western Conference-leading Red Wings before arriving at Joe Louis Arena for games on Monday and Tuesday. The Predators took the first contest 3-2, then won the second game 2-1 in overtime to pull even with Detroit with 68 points.

The Preds have won three in a row and are 6-0-3 in their last nine.

"We came in here and obviously we wanted to do well in here," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "It's sort of a mission accomplished in a lot of ways. Obviously we'd like to beat them in regulation so there was some separation, but hey, we were behind them when we came into their building and now we're tied with them, so that's an accomplishment."

On Tuesday night, Paul Kariya scored in overtime to lift the Predators. Kariya has three goals in his last three games.

Nashville's Tomas Vokoun made 38 saves for the second straight night and has won three straight.

"It was our night," said Vokoun, who's 5-2-3 with a 1.62 goals-against average and two shutouts against the Wild. "We had a great goal in overtime and we got four points on the road against the Red Wings. I mean, if you look at the history, that's never been the case."

Monday's game was a makeup for a Nov. 21 contest, in which Detroit's Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench in the first period because of cardiac arrest.

With the Predators facing the Wild, and the Wings hosting Vancouver, Nashville could be in sole possession of first place in the Central by the conclusion of play Thursday.

That, however, could be tough for the Preds, who face a Wild club looking to win five in a row for the first time in its six-year history. Nashville's four-game road trip brings it to the Xcel Energy Center, where it is 0-4-2 since Oct. 31, 2001.

The Wild posted the first four-game winning streak in franchise history with a 3-2 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday night. Brian Rolston scored two goals for the second straight game, and has a four-game point streak.

"His confidence is at a great level," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "He's got a great shot and he knows the goalie on the other side and where to put it. He's a great asset for us."

Marian Gaborik scored in the first period, and has four-game point streak with three goals and two assists in that span. The Wild have scored a first-period goal in eight straight games, the longest such streak in franchise history.

Manny Fernandez made 18 saves against the Coyotes and has won all four games during the win streak. Fernandez, who has at least temporarily put an end to Lemaire's regular rotating of him and Dwayne Roloson in goal, is 12-4-1 at home this season with a 2.00 GAA.

Nashville has been getting solid production out of forward Steve Sullivan, who scored his 200th goal Tuesday to open the scoring for the Preds. The 11-year veteran has points in eight of his last nine games, with seven goals and three assists in that span.

STANDINGS: Predators - 68 points, 1st place (tied), Central Division. Wild - 52 points, 5th place, 11 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Sullivan, 25 goals; Kimmo Timonen, 31 assists; Kariya, 47 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 107 PIM. Wild - Rolston, 22 goals, 28 assists and 50 points; Derek Boogaard, 101 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Predators - Power play: 19.0 percent (59 for 311), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.0 percent (268 for 319), 10th. Wild - Power play: 17.8 percent (49 for 276), 15th. Penalty killing: 88.8 percent (239 for 269), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Predators - Vokoun (25-9-5, 1 SO, 2.59 GAA); Chris Mason (5-2-1, 2.95). Wild - Fernandez (19-7-3, 1, 2.02); Roloson (5-14-1, 1, 2.99).


LAST MEETING: Dec. 1; Predators, 2-1. At Nashville, Tenn., Adam Hall and Jerred Smithson scored for the Predators, who had 46 shots on goal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 12-7-5 on the road; Wild - 15-10-1 at home.

Associated Press
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