The Minnesota Wild face off tonight against the Nashville Predators for the second time at the Xcel Energy Center this season. The two squads are heading in different directions. The Wild have lost three straight, while the Predators come in on a four game win streak. Nashville is also scoring goals. In their last two games, they’ve put up nine goals. Compare that to the Wild’s one goal per game over the last 3.
In goal for the Wild will be Niklas Backstrom, who is looking to recover from the subpar outing last game against the Canucks. His numbers this season are below average, with a 3-4-1 record, .902 save percentage and 2.76 goals against average. Nashville counters with Pekke Rinne, who brings a 4-2-3 record with a 1.81 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. Rinne has been tough to beat as of late, but struggled early, as the Predators started the season 1-5.
Head Coach Mike Yeo continues to juggle lines, trying to find a winning combination for his struggling team. Pierre-Marc Bouchard will move to a line with Zenon Konopka and Mike Rupp. I feel sorry (well not really) for the first Nashville guy who runs Bouchard tonight. Rookie Mikael Granlund will return to the lineup on a line with Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley. Matt Cullen moves to the third line, skating with Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck. Zach Parise missed practice yesterday with an illness, but will play tonight on the top line with Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle. Defensively, Jared Spurgeon continues to rehab his foot injury, but is reportedly close to returning to action. Pairings for tonight will be Ryan Suter with Jonas Brodin, along with Tom Gilbert and Clayton Stoner. Nate Prosser will play tonight for the first time since Jan. 25, replacing Marco Scandella on the third pairing with Justin Falk.
The key to the game for the Wild is simple–SCORE SOME GOALS. One goal a game won’t get the job done. Minnesota has been outscored 9-3 over the three game losing streak. To score, they must shoot the puck. Last game’s slow start, with only three shots in the first period, doomed the Wild early. The mantra of staying out of the penalty box, while generating power play chances, has been a staple of the Wild’s game for years, but has slipped as of late. Nashville is hot right now, scoring timely goals without getting a lot of shots. They won their last game against the LA Kings 3-0, despite being outshot 32-14. The team that finishes their chances tonight, will take the win. Too many times lately, the Wild have had glorious scoring chances but miss the net or make an extra needless pass instead of scoring. The Wild are looking for some confidence before they head out on the road for a pair of games against Calgary and Vancouver. Puck drop tonight is at 7pm, and a large crowd is expected to attend. Gone Puck Wild will be back afterwards with a full game recap. LET’S GO WILD!!