Wild blog: Hockey Wilderness
TV: FS-TN (Comcast 28, Dish Network 447, DirecTV 644)
Radio: 104.5 "The Zone" (WGFX)
It all comes down to this; with a win tonight, the Preds can not only eliminate Minnesota from the playoff hunt (take that, Craig Leipold!), but put pressure on St. Louis and Anaheim to keep Nashville out.
Questions to be answered: (1) Can Jason Arnott continue leading the way offensively? He has 4 goals and 2 assists in 3 games since returning. (2) Will the team lock things defensively and keep the explosive Marian Gaborik in check? (3) Can the Preds keep coming back like they did last night? In the last 8 games in which Nashville has given up the first goal, their record is a remarkable 5-1-3.
Predators coming in: Last night's improbable comeback in Detroit has given the Preds a chance at making the playoffs once again, and while they're playing on back-to-back nights, energy and emotion shouldn't be a problem tonight. So far this season, they are 6-4-2 in the second half of back-to-back sets.
Wild coming in: While mathematically they still have a chance at the playoffs, pretty much every game involving the contending teams would have to fall their way to get in. They're toast, and it's likely they're about to lose their franchise player, Marian Gaborik, to free agency.
Predators to watch: Jason Arnott has been a one-man wrecking crew of late, a sorely-needed boost to the Predators up front. J.P. Dumont has the 3rd-highest season assist total (47) in team history, and has 23 points in the last 24 games.
Wild to watch: Mikko Koivu is their best two-way player, a legitimate Selke candidate who also has 63 points on the season. Gaborik can play like a bolt of lightning, but is constantly hobbled by groin and hip injuries. Cal Clutterbuck, a rookie, likes to get physically involved (and has set a new "record" for hits in a season).
Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:
Yes, the Wild boast one of the most boring teams in the NHL (look at that league-low Shots For number), but with Gaborik back, you can expect a few dangerous chances out of him tonight.
Next, let's see which players draw penalties, and which ones head to the box (data through April 5):
|Nashville||Penalties Drawn||Minnesota||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|Jordin Tootoo||50||45||+5||Cal Clutterbuck||47||23||+24|
|Martin Erat||25||24||+1||James Sheppard||36||16||+20|
|Ryan Jones||24||10||+14||Stephane Veilleux||23||17||+6|
|Dan Hamhuis||23||25||-2||Mikko Koivu||22||28||-6|
|Vern Fiddler||22||13||+9||Eric Belanger||21||11||+10|
|Joel Ward||21||12||+9||Derek Boogaard||21||25||-4|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|Jordin Tootoo||50||45||+2||Marek Zidlicky||16||36||-20|
|Ryan Suter||18||36||-18||Mikko Koivu||24||24||0|
|Shea Weber||16||35||-19||Derek Boogaard||21||25||-4|
|Greg de Vries||15||24||-9||Cal Clutterbuck||47||23||+24|
|Dan Hamhuis||23||25||-2||Brent Burns||17||20||-3|
|Martin Erat||25||24||+1||Kim Johnsson||15||20||-5|
And as for the goalies?
|2008 - Dan Ellis||35||1965||11||19||4||5||96||2.93||963||867||.900||3|
|2008 - Pekka Rinne||51||2940||29||14||4||6||113||2.31||1400||1287||.919||7|
|2008 - Niklas Backstrom||70||4028||36||24||8||3||155||2.31||2024||1869||.923||8|
|2008 - Josh Harding||18||810||2||9||1||3||29||2.15||425||396||.932||0|