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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Nashville

Central Division rivals clash in St. Paul on Tuesday with playoff positioning on the line

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Nashville Predators (32-25-8) at Minnesota Wild (32-26-7)

Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North PLUS, FOX Sports App

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild, @mnwildscribe; GameCenter

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

ST. PAUL -- The Wild will play Tuesday in perhaps its most important game so far this season when it hosts the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center. 

Most important, so far, at least.

The Predators currently sit in the second wild card position in the Western Conference, tied with the Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes and one point ahead of the Wild. Both Minnesota and Nashville have played 65 games and have two games in hand on the Jets and Coyotes.

So while a victory on Tuesday doesn't ensure the Wild of jumping into the top-8, it will give it, at the very least, an edge on what will be a familiar opponent down the stretch for Minnesota. The Central Division rivals will play three times over the final 17 games of the regular season, including twice over the next 12 days. 

The two clubs will also play in the regular season finale in Nashville on April 4. 

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The Wild is looking to turn the tide on the Preds, as Nashville has won each of the first two meetings this season. Both games were played in Nashville back in October, with the Predators scoring a 5-2 win on Opening Night and then a 4-0 victory three weeks later.

But Minnesota was a much different team then. The last time these clubs played, the Wild was just 3-6-0. It has gone 29-20-7 since and has put itself firmly in the playoff discussion. 

Nashville, meanwhile, will enter play Tuesday night on the heels of an 8-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday in The Music City.

The two clubs went to the third period tied at 3-3 before the Oilers exploded for five goals in a span of 5 minutes, 13 seconds early in the period. Three of those goals came off the stick of Leon Draisaitl, who tallied four goals and an assist in the game. 

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was charged with all eight goaltenders before getting the hook with 10:05 remaining in regulation. 

His replacement, Juuse Saros, is expected to get the start in St. Paul. He stopped all four shots he faced over the final half of the third period. 

Like the Wild, the Predators also have a new head coach since the last time these clubs met. Nashville fired Peter Laviolette on Jan. 6 and replaced him with former New Jersey Devils coach John Hynes.

The Wild, which saw its three-game winning streak snapped Sunday night in a 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals, have won five of its past seven overall but will be playing for the fourth time in six nights.

Nashville has lost its past two following a three-game winning streak. It will be playing its third game in four nights on Tuesday. 

The Predators have been led offensively by defenseman Roman Josi, who leads the club with 45 assists and 61 points. 

Forwards Filip Forsberg and Nick Bonino each have a team-high 18 goals while Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith each have 17. 

Saros is 14-11-4 in 36 games (40 starts) with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.

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