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Reeling Wild set to face Predators

by Davis Harper
WILD (20-12-5) at PREDATORS (18-14-4)

: FS-N (HD), FS-TN

Last 10: Minnesota 3-5-2; Nashville 6-4-0.

Season Series: This is the second of four season meetings. On Nov. 23, Minnesota erased a one-goal deficit, scoring three in the third to complete another of their patented comebacks with a 3-2 win. However, Nashville has dominated Minnesota at home recently, outscoring the Wild 14-1 in three straight wins.

Big Story: This tilt will be a tale of two captains. Minnesota's Mikko Koivu returned from a leg injury and recorded an assist in the Wild's 4-2 loss to Colorado, while Nashville's Shea Weber will miss his second game after he suffered a concussion in Dallas on Friday. Both teams are looking to snap respective losing streaks.

Team Scope:

Wild: It seems the winds of fate have reversed course for Minnesota. A promising first two months – Minnesota led the Western Conference until Dec. 17 -- has deteriorated after a run of seven consecutive losses leaves them a point behind Vancouver in the Northwest Division. Most problematic for the Wild is their current scoring drought. After scoring 3.40 per game in a seven-game winning streak prior to the skid, the Wild have just nine goals in seven games since. In the most recent outing, Minnesota dropped a 4-2 decision at home to Colorado, gifting the Avs their first road win in nine games.

"This is still part of our process," coach Mike Yeo said. "We passed the test earlier about how we would do if we were having success. But where we clearly have to improve is when things are not going well, how does that affect you?

“You have to battle through. Every single player in the lineup needs to battle through."

Predators: Despite two straight losses, Nashville has used a 7-4-0 December to steadily climb in the Western Conference. The loss of Weber will throw a serious wrench in the motor, however, as the defenseman was once again shaping into one of the League’s finest two-way players. His attacking prowess -- Weber leads Nashville in points (29) and assists (21) –- was sorely missed in Monday’s 4-1 loss to Detroit, which snapped a five-game winning streak at Bridgestone Arena.

In spite of the loss, coach Barry Trotz said he thought his team "responded pretty well," focusing on positives like holding the Wings to 22 shots and Ryan Ellis' solid NHL debut.

"I think there was some apprehension (without Weber)," coach Barry Trotz said. "We had a very good Detroit team coming in here and you don't know who is going to respond to matchups. I thought we responded pretty well."

Who's Hot: In his return, Koivu kept his points streak alive Monday with an assist, giving him nine points in his last seven outings. Koivu also recorded two assists in his team's win against Nashville earlier this season.

Injury Report: With one key player back, Minnesota lost another Monday when defenseman Jared Spurgeon was checked from behind by Colorado's Cody McLeod. Spurgeon was down on the ice for five minutes and eventually left the game with a lower-body injury.  Clayton Stoner (groin), Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion symptoms), Casey Wellman (wrist) and Devin Setoguchi (left ankle) are all on injured reserve. … Nashville announced Tuesday that Weber, originally diagnosed with an upper-body injury, is out indefinitely with a concussion. Kevin Klein is doubtful for Wednesday's game with flu-like symptoms.

Stat Pack: Weber's presence might be most widely felt on special teams, where he was a key cog in one of the League's best power plays. Nashville went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against Detroit after going 4-for-8 in the previous two games. On the other side, Minnesota's power play is a microcosm of its larger offensive struggle, with the Wild converting just 2-of-22 during their skid.

Puck Drop: "Let's get back to work. Let's get excited about the opportunity to come to the rink tomorrow and play against Nashville and give ourselves a great chance to win the hockey game. Get feeling real good about the way we play the game and the things that we’re doing." – Wild coach Mike Yeo on what he told his team a day after loss to Colorado

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