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Wild-Predators Preview

GAME: Minnesota Wild (10-10-3) at Nashville Predators (15-4-3).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.

Tomas Vokoun looks to continue his strong play in net when the surging Nashville Predators host the Minnesota Wild at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

Vokoun is coming off his first shutout of the season and 13th of his career in the Predators' 2-0 win over the defending Western Conference champion Calgary Flames on Tuesday. Nashville was outshot 31-17, but Vokoun stopped everything thrown his way to help Nashville to its seventh win in nine games.

"It's tough to establish yourself," said Vokoun, who is 13-4-2 with a 2.45 goals-against average this season. "You just can't relax for a second. We've been playing well. Sometimes you get good breaks at home, but to win on a consistent basis, you have to be doing the right things, not just getting lucky."

Vokoun posted his first shutout since a 4-0 win over Minnesota on Feb. 26, 2004. He suffered just his second career loss to the Wild in Nashville's 4-2 defeat Nov. 19, falling to 4-2-3 with a 1.69 GAA in 10 career games against the Wild.

Vokoun has played especially well in Nashville this season, helping the Predators to a league best-tying 11-2-0 home mark. He has been in net for each of those wins, posting a 2.21 GAA in 13 starts.

"There are many wins that we can chalk up to just a fabulous performance by Tomas Vokoun," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "He just looked real solid (Tuesday) and he moved really well."

Vernon Fiddler scored his first goal of the season while Scott Hartnell added his sixth in nine games on the power play for the Predators, who continue a five-game homestand.

Nashville finished 1-for-6 on the power play and has scored with the man advantage in eight straight games. The Predators have 14 power-play goals in that span.

Thursday's matchup will feature two of the top penalty-killing units in the league. Minnesota has killed off an NHL-best 88.3 percent of penalties while Nashville was ranks third at 86.5 percent.

The Predators finished 2-for-7 and the Wild 1-for-5 on the power play in the first meeting on Nov. 19.

Minnesota is coming off its fifth defeat in seven games, a 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus on Wednesday. Randy Robitaille and rookie Mikko Koivu scored for the last-place Wild, who begin a six-game road trip.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 30): Wild - 23 points, 5th place, 11 PB, Northwest Division. Predators - 33 points, 2nd place, 5 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Wild - Brian Rolston, 9 goals; Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 12 assists and 19 points; Derek Boogaard, 46 PIM. Predators - Steve Sullivan and Hartnell, 9 goals; Kimmo Timonen, 13 assists; Paul Kariya, 20 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 66 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 30): Wild - Power play: 20 percent (24 for 120), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 89.3 percent (117 for 131), 1st. Predators - Power play: 18.4 percent (26 for 141), 11th (tied). Penalty killing: 86.5 percent (129 for 149), 3rd.

GOALTENDERS: Wild - Manny Fernandez (7-3-2, 0 SO, 2.02 GAA); Dwayne Roloson (3-7-1, 1, 2.61). Predators - Vokoun (13-4-2, 1, 2.45); Chris Mason (2-0-1, 0, 2.89).


LAST MEETING: Nov. 19; Wild, 4-2. At St. Paul, Minn., Kurtis Foster scored his first two NHL goals and Koivu had a career-high three assists for Minnesota.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Wild - 3-6-2 on the road; Predators - 11-2-0 at home.

Associated Press

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