Predators @ Wild preview: Back to business

Minnesota's #1 team defense has them sitting atop the league standings right now.

So much for a slump-buster, eh? Coming off disappointing back-to-back home losses, first to Columbus in overtime, then Edmonton in a blowout, the Nashville Predators start off a 5-game road trip at Minnesota, against what is currently the top team in the NHL (7:00 p.m. Central, on FS-TN).

Follow after the jump for the breakdown!

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Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (10-6-4) at Minnesota (12-5-3)
NSH Offense vs. MIN Defense MIN Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 NSH Offense   2.4 (14th)   26.2 (26th)  9.3 (5th) 2.3 (9th) 32.5 (29th) 929 (7th)  NSH Defense 
 MIN Defense 1.5 (1st) 30.6 (21st) 951 (1st) 2.0 (25th) 24.5 (29th) 8.2 (16th)  MIN Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
NSH PP vs. MIN PK MIN PP vs. NSH PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 NSH 5-on-4 5.8 (17th) 45.5 (20th) 12.8 (13th) 5.5 (13th) 56.1 (25th) 902 (9th)  NSH 4-on-5
 MIN 4-on-5 5.0 (10th) 50.2 (13th)  901 (10th)   4.7 (25th)   50.7 (12th)   9.2 (25th)   MIN 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

The good news here for the Preds is that Minnesota's greatest asset right now, 5-on-5 defense, is largely based on unsustainably hot goaltending. So the key to tonight's contest is for Patric Hornqvist to whisper phrases like "small sample size" and "regression to the mean" while he's crashing the crease. That'll rattle those Wild goalies, for sure...

Minnesota Wild

After the Todd Richards era ended unceremoniously over the summer, Minnesota installed a new head coach in Mike Yeo, who led their AHL affiliate in Houston to the Calder Cup Final last season, so even though he's the youngest bench boss in the league, he's a familiar and successful presence within that organization.

Minnesota is represented within SB Nation by...

Hockey_wilderness_logo_medium_medium

Alternative logo courtesy of Earl Sleek.

These days, the Wild are undergoing a little bit of a shuffle along the blueline with players returning from injury, including former Predator Greg Zanon, who has been out for a month but might get back in the lineup tonight (as of this morning, he's still on Injured Reserve, though). Marek Zidlicky hasn't played in a week, and is not expected back. From Hockey Wilderness:

Say Greg Zanon is ready to go on Wednesday. Marek Zidlicky could go on IR to make room, but who comes out of the lineup? Maybe Clayton Stoner to give his finger time to heal properly? Stoner has played well, even injured, but he certainly can't be playing 100%. With the way the Wild are playing, does Zanon justify potentially messing up the on ice chemistry? Does he still fit with what the Wild are trying to do? Does Zanon have the ability to jump into the system and keep up? If not, does Zanon sit?    

To this point, the Wild have certainly been riding hot goaltending from both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, and while neither is likely to keep up their current pace, Minnesota has yet to see their two big offensive acquisitions get rolling yet. On balance, if these two start producing as expected, that might help offset the goaltending and keep the Wild competing for the Northwest Division lead:


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
Dany Heatley 20 5 7 12 4 4 2 0 2 55 9.0


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
Devin Setoguchi 20 6 4 10 1 10 2 0 2 42 14.2

Nashville Predators

The Preds have been on a bit of a roller-coaster all season long, enduring a horrid early stretch while plagued with injuries, getting hot for a couple weeks after that, and playing mediocre hockey since (3-2-2 in their last 7). One would think that with a healthy lineup for the first extended stretch all season, the Predators would be set up to play some of their best hockey, but I don't think we can say that's the case right now.

All I know is, this guy should be pretty honked off after getting pulled during the first intermission last night:


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

209

Nov 03, 1982



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2011 - Pekka Rinne 19 1073 10 5 4 42 2.35 585 543 .928 3

Although nothing has been announced, I can't imagine that he doesn't get the start tonight. In 8 career starts against Minnesota, Peks has 3 shutouts, so that's something to build upon.

As far as the roster goes, we can expect news around 11:00 a.m. Central on Niclas Bergfors, either that another team has claimed him, or he clears waivers and could be assigned to Milwaukee. Will the Preds bring someone up to replace him, or just ride with 21 healthy players (and Teemu Laakso on IR) for now?

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