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GAME: Minnesota Wild (38-35-7) at Nashville Predators (46-25-8).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EDT.

The Nashville Predators got a shutout from Chris Mason in their first game since announcing top goaltender Tomas Vokoun would miss the rest of the season because of blood clots. They're hoping another strong performance from their new No. 1 goalie will give Mason another boost of confidence as the playoffs approach.

Mason will likely make his sixth consecutive start for the Predators when they host a Minnesota Wild club that has been eliminated from playoff contention. Nashville needs to get Mason, Vokoun's lightly used backup, as much work as possible before the postseason.

The loss of Vokoun, who recorded 36 wins and a 2.67 goals-against average this season, was a stunning blow to a Predators team that's enjoying its best season and is looking to earn the fourth seed for the Western Conference playoffs. General manager David Poile announced Monday that Vokoun, who has missed the last five games, will be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season and the postseason due to pelvic thrombophlebitis.

That leaves the Predators' season in the hands of Mason, who has never made a playoff appearance and turns 30 a day before the NHL playoffs start April 21. Mason, 9-5-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 20 games this season, has played well of late, winning his last three games and allowing one total goal.

On Tuesday, he made 27 saves in a 2-0 win over St. Louis, his second shutout of the Blues in the three-game span - and first start since the team learned that Vokoun's season was over.

"It means a lot," said Mason, who lost his only game against the Wild this season 5-1 on Jan. 26. "We as a team knew before last game (about Vokoun). But still, it's important for me to have the confidence of our team. They've been playing awesome in front of me since they found out."

Mike Sillinger scored with less than eight minutes remaining and Adam Hall added an empty net goal for the Predators, who have clinched their second straight postseason appearance and hold a four-point lead over Anaheim for the fourth seed with three games remaining.

Finishing fourth would guarantee home-ice advantage in the first round for the Predators, whose 29-8-1 home record is among the NHL's best.

Nashville's three-game win streak, which followed a 1-6 stretch, has the Predators at the 100-point mark for the first time.

The Predators have lost only once at home to Wild in nine all-time meetings, recording six wins and two ties.

Minnesota is coming off a shutout as well, beating Chicago 2-0 on Tuesday. Stephane Veilleux scored the deciding goal midway through the third period, and was ejected less than a minute later after a fight with the Blackhawks' Radim Vrbata.

"He was intense and skated well," said Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team has won four of its last five games. "This is exactly what we expected from Veilleux all year. The last 10 games he's been playing well and getting some offense."

Rookie Josh Harding made 27 saves in his second NHL start for the Wild.

STANDINGS: Wild - 83 points, 5th place, 17 PB, Northwest Division. Predators - 100 points, 2nd place, 18 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Wild - Marian Gaborik, 37 goals; Brian Rolston, 45 assists and 78 points; Derek Boogaard, 154 PIM. Predators - Steve Sullivan, 31 goals; Paul Kariya, 50 assists and 78 points; Brendan Witt, 187 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Wild - Power play: 17.1 percent (75 for 438), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.6 percent (373 for 426), 1st. Predators - Power play: 18.1 percent (89 for 492), 14th. Penalty killing: 84.6 percent (430 for 508), 5th.

GOALTENDERS: Wild - Manny Fernandez (30-18-6, 1 SO, 2.26 GAA); Harding (2-0-0, 1, 1.92). Predators - Mason (9-5-1, 2, 2.64); Pekka Rinne (1-1-0, 3.81).


LAST MEETING: Jan. 26; Wild, 5-1. At St. Paul, Minn., Alexandre Daigle and Veilleux each had a goal and an assist, and Fernandez made 32 saves to lift the Wild.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Wild - 15-19-5 on the road; Predators - 29-8-1 at home.

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