July 4, 2012 was Ryan Suter's Independence Day, as the longtime Nashville Predator signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild, alongside Zach Parise. Tonight, the Preds meet up with their former teammate for the first time (7:00 p.m. on FS-TN).
While the Predators have seen some improvement from Game One to Game Two, they don't have any wins to show for it, while the Wild have jumped out of the gate with consecutive victories over Colorado and Dallas. Can the Preds find their stride against the team Craig Leipold left them for?
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Until we get a few more games under everyone's belt, we'll run with last year's stats and expound from there:
|Nashville Predators||Minnesota Wild|
|5-on-5 Save %||.924||7th||.927||4th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.05||26th||2.24||22nd|
|# of PK's/Gm||2.98||6th||2.37||15th|
Fundamentally, the Wild were a poor team last season, and a hot start gave way to a horrid second half as they plummeted through the standings and finished out of the playoffs. One of the more interesting stories to watch from a stats perspective is how much Minnesota improves thanks to their splashy free agent spending.
Last Time Out
Sunday, the Wild took a 1-0 victory on home ice over the Dallas Stars, as they buckled down to hold a late lead (something the Preds have failed to do so far):
The third was much more fast paced as the Stars turned up the heat and brought the pressure. Josh Harding stood tall when he needed to, and the Wild's defense certainly stepped up their game to match the Stars charge. For the Stars, their new kid, Chris Nilthrop, was outstanding. He looked a bit out of sorts in the first period, but after that, put a very good Wild team on lock down. A little support from his team, and he could have stolen this one.
Josh Harding knows all about being on the other end of this stick, trust me.
Who To Watch Out For
Parise just scored his first goal as a Wild on Sunday, but will be looked to as a leading scorer up front.
We're all familiar with this guy. Some see him as a turnocat, but to me he was just a pro waiting for a chance to choose his career path.
Paul Gaustad's absence from the lineup last night due to an upper body injury gave Richard Clune a chance to make his Nashville Predators debut, on the 4th line:
|Sergei Kostitsyn||Mike Fisher||Martin Erat|
|Craig Smith||David Legwand||Patric Hornqvist|
|Colin Wilson||Nick Spaling||Matt Halischuk|
|Rich Clune||Brandon Yip||Brian McGrattan|
The d-pairings, on the other hand, remained the same last night:
|Roman Josi||Shea Weber|
|Scott Hannan||Kevin Klein|
|Hal Gill||Ryan Ellis|