(20-8-2) Nashville Predators vs. Minnesota Wild (16-12-2)
7 P.M. | Xcel Energy Center
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game
For the first time this season, the Nashville Predators are set to face the Minnesota Wild, the last of the inaugural meetings between Central Division foes and Nashville on the current campaign. The outing in Minnesota is the first of five between the two clubs set to take place over the coming months.
The Wild currently sit fifth in the division, while Nashville owns the third spot. Minnesota is 9-3-2 at home this season, but are just 4-4-2 in their last 10 games.
The Predators haven't played since Tuesday night, a 3-2 shootout win over Boston. It was the 20th win of 2014-15 for Nashville, tying the 2005-06 Preds squad for the fewest number of games needed to reach the 20-win mark. Tuesday's victory came in just the 30th outing for the Predators this season.
In Tuesday night's shootout victory, Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne faced overtime for the sixth time this season, becoming one of four NHL goaltenders to have played in six or more overtime games and not allow a goal. Overall, with 20 wins on the campaign, Rinne leads League netminders in the category. his 1.76 goals-against average and .937 saver percentage are also atop the NHL.
Skating in front of Rinne, the pairing of Shea Weber and Roman Josi continue to leads the Preds defensive corps. Weber, who leads Preds defensemen in points (6g-12a-18pts) and goals, leads the team and is fourth among all NHL skaters in average time on ice (26:34). Josi is right behind Weber in those categories with 15 points and an average of 26:31 spent on the ice per night.
Nashville's top line of Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal all tallied at least one point in Tuesday's outing, marking the fourth time in the last six games all three players have found the scoresheet. The three players lead the Preds in points this season; Forsberg in first (12g-18a-30pts), Ribeiro in second (9g-17a-26pts) and Neal in third (11g-8a-19pts).
Minnesota's Zach Parise leads the Wild in points with 23 (11g-12a), while Nino Niederreiter has potted a team-leading 14 goals. Former Preds defenseman Ryan Suter has 19 points on the season, good for third on the club. Darcy Kuemper has seen a bulk of the workload for the Wild in net, posting a 11-9-0 record with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
Dating back to Dec. 31, 2010, the Predators are 9-3-3 against the Wild and have claimed 10 of a possible 14 points on Xcel Energy Center ice. Preds forward Olli Jokinen is set to play in his 1,200th career game tonight. Matt Cullen, a Virginia, Minn., native, played three seasons with the Wild from 2010-13, posting 101 points (33g-68a) in 193 games, while Eric Nystrom skated one season in Minnesota with 12 points in 82 games.
What to Watch for: Brent and Willy's Breakdown:
Morning Skate:Predators Update:
Forward James Neal will not play tonight for the Preds due to an illness. Craig Smith is expected to take Neal's place on the first line with Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro.Nashville Projected Lines:
Forsberg - Ribeiro - Smith
Cullen - Fisher - Wilson
Nystrom - Jokinen - Bourque
Roy - Jarnkrok - BeckDefensemen:
Josi - Weber
Ekholm - Ellis
Volchenkov - JonesGoaltenders:
Minnesota Wild Update:
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo reported this morning that forwards Matt Cooke and Ryan Carter are expected to make their return to the Minnesota lineup tonight from injury.
Darcy Kuemper is expected to start in net for the Wild.