The only two teams without a victory yet in the Western Conference meet tonight at Bridgestone Arena, where the 0-0-2 Minnesota Wild come calling to meet the 0-2-0 Nashville Predators. The Wild, at least, have stocked up on loser points, having dropped a shootout decision to Los Angeles and an overtime one to Anaheim heading into this game, while the Predators have lost both of their games in regulation.
Last Season's Stats
|Minnesota Wild||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Save %||.912||19th||.915||17th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.15||22nd||2.92||27th|
|# of PK's/Gm||2.81||1st||2.90||3rd|
We'll start rolling with this season's stats next week once teams get a few games under their belt, but last season's numbers give us some basic insight into what kinds of teams these are - basically mediocre at puck possession, but very disciplined in terms of staying out of the penalty box.
Expectations are rising in Minnesota after the Wild returned to the playoffs last season, leading to some pressure on head coach Mike Yeo. Craig Leipold raised the bar when he made the big splash signing Ryan Suter & Zach Parise, and the Wild have continued to complement their talented youth with veteran acquisitions in an attempt to step up among the powers of the Western Conference. Over the summer they added some scoring punch up front with forward Jason Pominville, who they recently signed to a 5-year contract extension, for example.
Between Pominville, Parise, captain Mikko Koivu and winger Dany Heatley, the Wild will put Nashville's D to the test. And just in case you are sick of pests after seeing Steve Downie give Roman Josi a concussion Friday night, Minnesota also added Matt Cooke to their lineup, an agitator who has been suspended by the NHL on four separate occasions since 2009 for on-ice incidents.
I'm sure the fans at Bridgestone Arena tonight will also be ready to lustily boo that homegrown defenseman who left Nashville and headed north for "the State of Hockey", but I'm sorry to disappoint you - Jonathon Blum was cut during Minnesota's training camp.
Oh, you mean this guy?
|2013 - Ryan Suter||2||0||1||1||-1||2||0||0||0||6||0.0|
As I wrote yesterday, the story of this year's edition of the Nashville Predators is one of transition, particularly among the forwards, where Matt Cullen is getting the lion's share of the ice time at center and David Legwand is seeing his TOI cut. Along with fellow veteran free agent forwards Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks, we'll also get a chance to see Filip Forsberg in a real NHL lineup, as opposed to the quasi-Admirals team the Preds had to field down the stretch last season. Mike Organ of the Tennessean shared word from Barry Trotz that Forsberg will play, after having missed the last couple weeks with a lower body injury.
On defense, of course, the question is how the pairings will look in light of Roman Josi's absence. Ryan Ellis gets his chance to play after being scratched in the first two games, and may step on to the 3rd pair alongside Mattias Ekholm. Late in Friday's game we saw Seth Jones play with Shea Weber on the top pair and so far, you have to be impressed with how composed the rookie looks out there. He's patient with the puck and knows how to use his big frame and skating ability to hold off opponents while looking for the next move.
In goal, expect to see Pekka Rinne, who can build off a fine effort at Colorado. If this team is to try and re-establish any kind of home ice dominance this season, it starts with suffocating play from their franchise goalie.
|2013 - Pekka Rinne||2||69||0||2||0||5||4.35||41||36||.878||0|