Minnesota Wild: Know Your Rivals – Nashville Predators

ST. PAUL, MN - MARCH 24: Minnesota Wild Center Mikko Koivu (9) and Nashville Predators Center Kyle Turris (8) collide during a NHL game between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators on March 24, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. The Wild defeated the Predators 4-1. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - MARCH 24: Minnesota Wild Center Mikko Koivu (9) and Nashville Predators Center Kyle Turris (8) collide during a NHL game between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators on March 24, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. The Wild defeated the Predators 4-1. (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Minnesota Wild as always faces a steep challenge to emerge from the Central Division. What about their rivals?

We’re looking at each of the teams in the Central Division in the hopes of gauging how much more or less of a threat they now are to the Minnesota Wild.

The Nashville Predators have looked impressively strong for multiple seasons now; this is a team only a season removed from making the Stanley Cup Final after all.

They haven’t gotten weaker this summer, in fact, they’ve probably only gotten a year older, wiser, stronger and more determined.

When Do We Face Them:

@ Nashville (Monday, October 15 @ 7PM)
vs Nashville (Sunday, March 3 @ 6:30PM)
@ Nashville (Tuesday, March 5 @ 7PM)
vs Nashville (Monday, March 25 @ 7PM)

How We Match Up With Them

Looking at the schedule, the Minnesota Wild don’t have to face up to the Nashville team until March, barring a fixture in the opening week or two.

The optimist would hope that the Wild have secured their place in the play-offs by March and that these fixtures are a useful chance to up their tempo and test their play-off mettle.

The pessimist says it’s the other way around and the Nashville Predators have secured play-offs by that point. However, that could be advantageous. Maybe by then, they’re testing new, young line combinations and suddenly these games become a little easier.

Of the most talked about parts of the Predators’ make-up is their defense; particularly the trio of Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. That is going to be difficult to break-down, whether you’re sending Mikko Koivu out or Eric Staal.

Maybe sending Jordan Greenway‘s line out would be a way to beat them down, but quite frankly Subban and company don’t exactly back down from a bit of rough and tumble and it’d likely end up in a tussle. Someone like Matt Read may be a useful guy in the old-fashioned hockey sense.

With Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino and the oft-overlooked Calle Jarnkrok making up their center of the ice core, this is a team that is going to be an elite-tier challenge to break-down. They don’t exactly have a center that is easy to feast on.

Bonino is possibly the weakness in that group and if he was matched against a line built purely around speed, he might have some troubles. Unfortunately, the current Minnesota Wild roster doesn’t have an abundance of that.

Maybe the final hope is that Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros, who is now more and more viewed as their future goaltender, has an off-day. Rinne has been known to have them in the past and myabe that’ll be key to good results for the Minnesota Wild.

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All in all, it’s going to be a business as usual season for the Nashville side, I feel. I just hope that we come to town late enough in the year to see a watered-down opposition, resting ahead of the playoffs.