Feb 6, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Carter Hutton (30) makes a save on Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville (29) during the first period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild vs Nashville Predators: Preview


Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise shoots and scores on Predators goalie Hutton

Feb 6, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Carter Hutton (30) gives up a goal to Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise (11) during the first period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild take on the Nashville Predators in the final regular season game for both teams.  The Wild are tuning up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs while the Predators are making tee times.  The Wild have taken 3 of 4 meetings this season with their divisional rivals.  The Predators took the first meeting in October and the Wild have won 3 straight since.  Minnesota has been on a hot streak as of late going 4-0-1 in the month of April, including wins against 3 division leaders.  Tonight they look to keep that that streak going against Nashville and storm into the playoffs against either the Colorado Avalanche or the St. Louis Blues.  Here are the scenarios for who the Wild will face in the first round of the playoffs, per the Minnesota Wild and the NHL PR office:

 

 

Clayton Stoner clears Patric Hornqvist out of the crease on Oct. 8 2013 in the first meeting of the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators

Oct 8, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Patric Hornqvist (27) and Minnesota Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner (4) battle for position in front of Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding (37) at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators beat the Wild 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Mike Strasinger-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part tonight’s game doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning for either team in the standings. What Minnesota Head Coach Mike Yeo wants is for his team to use every minute of practice and game time to keep the focus on preparing for the playoffs.  No coasting, no taking a day off.  The Wild are going to have a player back in the lineup tonight who’s been out with an injury the last 10 games.  Clayton Stoner is expected to play once again giving the Minnesota Wild 8 healthy defensemen.  Mikael Granlund practiced Saturday but is not expected to be in the lineup tonight.

Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to get the start in net tonight.  He has yet to lose in regulation as a member of the Minnesota Wild going 7-0-3.  He has a 1.78 goals against average and a .923 save % in those games.  He has really been much, much more than a rental backup to the Wild.  Since joining the team at the trade deadline he’s become the starting net minder and a team leader.

Caoch Mike Yeo says Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak are out tonight with minor injuries.  For those reasons Nino Niederreiter will be skating at center for the first time and Jon Blum may see some time at wing tonight.  The Projected lines for tonight appear to be:

Zach PariseMikko KoivuCharlie Coyle

Matt MoulsonErik HaulaJason Pominville

Matt Cooke – Nino Niderreiter – Justin Fontaine

Stephane VeilleuxCody McCormick

 

Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter loads up for a slap shot

Oct 22, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) looks to shoot during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively the Wild are planning to go with 7 defensemen in the lineup tonight, a first for this season.  Christian Folin will be the odd man out with the 7 playing being:

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Marco ScandellaJonas Brodin

Nate ProsserClayton Stoner

Jonathon Blum

The Minnesota Wild need to keep the intensity going as they head into the playoffs.  I don’t think the Nashville Predators will be able to match the fierceness of the Wild tonight.  The Predators are playing out the string and looking to the off season and training camp. That said they still have some pride in their team and won’t just roll over.  The Wild can not assume anything against this squad, any kind of a letup will see them playing catch up tonight.  The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t have much to play for last night and it showed as the Predators jumped on them for a 7-5 win.  This is the Minnesota Wild;s chance to end the season strong and charge in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a high note.  I’ll be back after the game with a recap and some analysis of the final regular season game.  Until then this is Scott Drain shouting out playoff loud, “Let’s Go Wild, LET’S GO WILD!!”

 

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