After a perfect swing through the province of Alberta, the Nashville Predators are back in the United States to conclude their five-game trip tonight in St. Paul, Minnesota, against the Wild. It's the third meeting between the two clubs this season, with Minnesota coming away with two wins with one of them in overtime.
It was a productive 48 hours for the Predators in Calgary and Edmonton, sweeping a back-to-back set over the Flames and Oilers on Thursday and Friday. Nashville prevailed 4-3 in Calgary before topping the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout at Rogers Place. Defenseman P.K. Subban returned to the lineup on Friday night in Edmonton after missing the previous 16 games with an upper-body injury.
With two assists on Friday, Ryan Johansen continues to pace the Preds in scoring with 32 points, including 25 helpers. Filip Forsberg sits second on the club in points with 29, followed by Viktor Arvidsson with 28 and Mike Fisher with 27. James Neal leads the team in goals with 15 on the season; Forsberg and Fisher have each found the back of the net 12 times. Pekka Rinne owns a 17-12-6 mark between the pipes; Juuse Saros is 5-3-1 with a .952 save percentage.
Minnesota (30-10-5) came back to defeat the Anaheim Ducks last night by a 5-3 final. Eric Staal leads the team with 16 goals and 40 points, followed by Mikael Granlund with 38 points and Charlie Coyle, who has 37. Nino Niederreiter has scored 14 times this season; Coyle and Mikko Koivu have each found the back of the net on 13 occasions. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who got the win against the Ducks last night, is 25-8-3 on the season; Darcy Kuemper has gone 5-2-2.
Video: Preds play Wild in the finale of a five-game trip
Morning Update: The Predators held a full morning skate at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday and were joined by Colin Wilson (Injured Reserve; lower-body)
Here's a look at Nashville's projected lineup.
As the Preds look for their fourth win in five tries on their excursion, here are three things to watch:
The Return of 76:
The Predators saw the return of defenseman P.K. Subban on Friday night, a change that will only help the blue line. Subban saw 22:53 of ice time, and said he felt "OK" as he began to ease back into game action. There's no doubt, however, that Subban added a balance to the backend, and the return of the All-Star is great news for a D-corps that continues to be without the services of Roman Josi due to injury.
"I'm sure he was a little nervous; he missed that much time and got thrown in against [Edmonton], a team with this much speed, I thought he played great," defenseman Ryan Ellis said of Subban. "He's doing his thing, settled things down on the power play for us and he looked great."
Battle of Alberta:
So Friday night's game in Edmonton wasn't the actual 'Battle of Alberta' as it's known - that's between the Oilers and the Calgary Flames - but there was plenty of physical play to speak of during regulation between the Preds and Oilers, including a couple of scraps and multiple post-whistle scrums. It's the type of game that is seen less and less in the NHL these days, but don't underestimate what a game like that can do for a team when it comes to standing up for one another and sticking together.
The jubilation with which the Predators exited their bench after James Neal ended things in the shootout should also serve as a key indicator as to how much that win meant to the team. There's still plenty of motivation left to finish things off tonight on a high note before returning home.
Nashville has a chance tonight to finish off their current trip with four wins in five tries, an impressive feat for any team away from their home rink. There's a belief in the locker room that the Preds could easily be undefeated on the trip to this point, and they've been pleased with their play for the majority of the contests.
One more task awaits in St. Paul against a Minnesota team that played last night. If the Predators can get an early jump, it could spell good news as Nashville is the only team in the NHL yet to lose in regulation this season when scoring first.
Take It In:
Tonight's game from the Xcel Energy Center comes with a 7 p.m. CT start, with coverage beginning at 6:30 on Fox Sports Tennessee. Pregame radio coverage begins at 6 p.m. on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.