USA TODAY Sports
While the Nashville Predators need a win to keep pace with Western Conference playoff contenders, a personal drama hangs over tonight's game as Ryan Suter returns to Smashville...
|Minnesota Wild||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Save %||.914||16th||.929||5th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.55||20th||3.20||26th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.09||1st||3.29||5th|
The Predators' penalty kill has been a weak spot as of late (fortunately they didn't have to go to work at all last night against Edmonton), so hopefully they can find some success against a Minnesota power play which is having its own troubles.
So far this season the Preds are 1-0-1 against Minnesota. On January 22nd Chris Mason backstopped Nashville to a 3-1 win, while on February 9th the Predators were caught be the controversial "hand pass" rule on an overtime faceoff by Paul Gaustad, and lost 2-1.
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Minnesota Wild Injuries
Let's see what we've got here... fellow contender for a Western Conference playoff spot... future division rival under the NHL realignment...
Oh yeah, there's this guy making his first visit to Bridgestone Arena wearing enemy colors:
|2012 - Ryan Suter||22||1||14||15||-6||8||1||0||0||40||2.5|
As I wrote a couple days ago, Suter is experiencing similar challenges to Shea Weber this season - without a familiar world-class defenseman alongside him, Suter hasn't dominated the flow of play like he did for several years here in Nashville.
Of course, the big question today is how the fans will greet the longtime Predator:
He took the money, but he also took to the opportunity to move closer to his home and that of his wife. While the Predators lamented that Suter had negotiated in some bad faith, one got the sense that Suter was genuinely remorseful for having caused the only team he had played for, and his general manager David Poile, any strife.
Weber's reaction to Suter leaving was to ink an offer sheet with the Flyers, have his agents put over Philly as a more desirable location and then wait to see if the contract would scare off Poile. It didn't; as the GM said, "Shea knew, when he signed the offer sheet, that he was going to play the next 14 years in Philly or Nashville."
So perhaps one sees Suter as the catalyst for Weber's decision, or Weber as someone who tried to bail on his team during a moment of unprecedented turmoil. Whatever the case, Weber's still in Nashville and Suter returns there on Saturday with the Wild, expected[sic] a chilly reception.
Fans are swooning over the new guys who joined the lineup last night, but tonight's game represents a much stiffer test. Not only are the Wild well-rested and relatively healthy compared to Edmonton, but on the flip side, the players making their Preds debut last night (Bobby Butler, Zach Boychuk & Victor Bartley) had to have tremendous adrenaline going. Can they maintain that level of energy tonight?
Trotz said Hornqvist will be out tonight, Tuesday against Dallas. Didn't know if he'll make the trip this week.— JoshuaCooper (@JoshuaCooper) March 9, 2013
That leaves two other questions unanswered - will Jonathon Blum get back in there after a scratch last night, and will Pekka Rinne get the start?
|2012 - Pekka Rinne||22||1285||9||8||4||46||2.15||557||511||.917||4|
My guess is that both of those are a "yes". But stay tuned...