Let’s just get this out of the way now: workhorse defenseman Ryan Suter will play in career game No. 600 tonight against, who else, the Nashville Predators — the same team with which he spent the first seven years of his career.
How perfect is that? The planets aligned and gave the State of Hockey this happy little occasion.
While it’s a cool setting for the impressive mark, Suter would probably be the first person to tell you he cares more about working towards a positive outcome tonight over acknowledging the unique situation.
For Suter’s 600th, the Wild returns home and hopes to concentrate on finishing around the net, in an effort to tally those recently elusive goals. The Wild know it needs to crash the net — as Nino Niederreiter mentioned to WildTV after practice today.
But against the rolling Predators — who have dropped only two decisions since the Wild played in Nashville on Oct. 8, going 4-1-1 in that stretch — clean, crisp goals might be hard to come by. Predators’ netminder Pekka Rinne went 3-1-1 in that stretch, amassing at 2.16 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. Backup Carter Hutton, made the start Sunday at Winnipeg for Nashville, and allowed just one goal on 39 shots. As Justin Fontaine put it, the Wild will need some greasy goals to get on the board and get some momentum going.
Through nine games, the Wild have had ten different players tally a goal, and only four with multiple goals. Zach Parise leads the way with four, while Matt Cooke, Jonas Brodin and Jason Pominville each have three. The Predators have spread the wealth just a little bit more with 12 players recording a goal and six skaters with multiple tallies — Patric Hornqvist with three and Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher, Eric Nystrom, Shea Weber and Seth Jones with two.
While Head Coach Mike Yeo & co., know they have a tough challenge ahead of them tonight, Yeo said, as always, the Wild is focused on itself. The Wild have played well all season, but simply need added finish to its offensive spark.
One Wild skater who will be taking it all in from the press box is blueliner Mathew Dumba. While not much compares to game experience when developing a young talent like Dumba, Yeo noted that watching the games can be just as beneficial at times. Sure, Dumba would rather be out on the ice, but with guidance from the coaches on what to watch for, watching the game is simply another opportunity for the 19-year-old to learn.
Tonight is also Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at Xcel Energy Center. Look for lavender everywhere. The Lighthouse can already tell you, many of us who sit in the press box are sporting some varying shades of purple. The dasher boards and stick tap got a makeover in lavender. During the game, informational tables will be set up throughout the concourse for various charities.