The Nashville Predators make their way south (relatively speaking) for their first stop at XCEL Energy Center for a date with the Minnesota Wild tonight. Since their last meeting, a Preds win, the Wild strung together three wins in a row, only to lose the next three after that. They haven't been in action since Saturday, (a shootout loss to the Panthers) and are looking to get off the schneid in their first home game in over a week.
The Wild haven't scored much lately, only scoring one goal in their last three games. But it's not for lack of trying. They've sent 276 shots towards opponents goal, which is good for ninth in the league and only one shot behind Nashville.
|Nashville Predators||Minnesota Wild|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||30.8||14th||27.1||23rd|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||28.9||13th||17.7||1st|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.918||14th||.947||7th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.44||25th||4.22||5th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.67||15th||4.11||22nd|
One thing to note is that the Wild aren't giving up a lot of shots in close situations, over the course of an entire game.
Craig Smith took sole possession of the scoring lead on Sunday night with his assist on Matt Cullen's goal. Smith is also on a five game point streak. He's skating with confidence and has looked really good recently. He shouldn't be expected to make it onto the score sheet every night, but there's no reason to think his recent play is a fluke.
Former Wild Matt Cullen is back in his old barn for the first time since signing with Nashville this summer. In his three years in the State of Hockey, Cullen amassed 33 goals and 68 assists for 101 points.
So far, Matt Cooke has been excellent for the Wild, which may or may not come as a surprise. The reformed Cooke is tied with Jonas Brodin and Mikko Koivu to lead the club with six points, but also has only clocked in four minutes in the penalty box so far. His last season with the Penguins saw him cut down on the dirty shenanigans he had been known for. So much so, that he has even offered to lend a helping hand to Patrick Kaleta.
Since the team hasn't played since Friday, (a shootout loss to the Panthers) Josh Harding should be expected to start. Niklas Backstrom hasn't played since suffering a knee injury after a collision with Eric Nystrom the last time these two teams played. Harding hasn't been at fault for the mediocre play of this team, boasting a respectable .948 SV% with a 1.11 GAA.
The key for the Predators in this game is to control the tempo of the game, and throw as many shots on net as they can. The game in Nashville was a special teams sideshow, and that isn't likely to happen again tonight. After this one is over, these two teams don't meet up again until January, so whoever win gets to savor the victory until next year. Game time is 7:00 p.m. CST, broadcast around the nation on NBCSN.