ST. PAUL -- One of the hottest defenses in the League faces off against one of the most mobile as the Wild welcomes the Nashville Predators to Xcel Energy Center Thursday night.
These teams are two sides of the same coin; each boast one of the best goaltenders in the League in recent years, a confidence in their defense and a deep forward lineup, especially at center. And both, of course, now points in Central Division games come at a premium.
"We're only 1-3 ... this year on divisional games, so we've got to pick up our pace against this team," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're a team that you know is always fighting for the divisional lead."
Coming off the franchise's first Stanley Cup Final, Nashville has posted a 10-5-2 record on this season. Most recently, they're coming off a 6-3 home win against the Washington Capitals.
"They've got a lot of speed up front and some skilled defensemen," Wild blueliner Jonas Brodin said. "We've gotta do a good job of being tight on the other forwards and keep boxing the forwards out when they come to the net."
Those forwards include recently acquired center Kyle Turris, who's picked up three points in two games with Nashville, including a goal.
"Turris gives them a great one-two punch, and [Nick] Bonino is slotted as a third, fourth guy where he's really good," Boudreau said. "[Is there] a deeper team? I don't think so.
"When you're four lines deep, you can never take the foot off the gas, because they're coming all the time."
Video: Wild hosts streaking Predators squad
One player who's been at full throttle is goaltender Devan Dubnyk, riding a franchise-record shutout streak of 195 minutes, 5 seconds. "[Dubnyk's] been great," defenseman Matt Dumba said. "He's been a wall, and I think he's the first one to credit."
With a turnaround in his game that Boudreau described as "night and day," Dubnyk is in a good spot going into the game against the Predators.
"They're a big team that takes a lot of shots and goes hard to the net," Dubnyk said. "It's always a tough game against them."
But Dubnyk hasn't changed his game or mindset ahead of Thursday's game. "You just keep the same routine and you approach each game as a new challenge."
"Challenge" was a word several Wild players used to describe Thursday's contest, but it's more than a welcome measuring stick. The defensive pairing of Brodin and Dumba relishes the difficulty of playing such a hot opponent, especially now that they've hit their stride.
"They have been playing pretty well together," Boudreau said with a smile. "I think it's just communication, getting to know each other … it takes a little while to get going but obviously these guys have got it going."
Here are tonight's projected lineups:
Tyler Ennis - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Jason Zucker
Daniel Winnik - Joel Eriksson Ek - Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno - Matt Cullen - Chris Stewart
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba
Gustav Olofsson - Mike Reilly
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith
Calle Jarnkrok - Colton Sissons - Miikka Salomaki
Cody McLeod - Nick Bonino - Austin Watson
Roman Josi - Mattias Ekholm
Alexei Emelin - P.K. Subban
Matt Irwin - Anthony Bitetto