Central Division Preview: Minnesota Wild

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

We're taking a look at the teams in the newly revamped Central Division. Who are they? Who plays for them? How much booing should Predators fans be expected to rain down on them? Next up: the Minnesota Wild.

Previous Season

8th in the West - Secured their first playoff berth since 2008 by defeating the Avalanche on the last day of the season. They fell in 5 games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. For the fans in Minnesota, however, just returning to the playoffs at all was a major accomplishment:


2013 Season Stats

26-19-3 (55), GF & GF/G: 118, 2.46 (23rd), GA & GA/G: 125, 2.60 (15th), PP: 17.9 % (16th), PK: 80.7% (18th)

Goaltending

Niklas Backstrom: .917%, 2.43 career

Josh Harding: .915%, 2.67 career

Backstrom is no question going to be their workhorse again this season. However, Josh Harding should have at least earned a few starts by becoming an emergency starter during the series against Chicago.

Notable Additions

  • Nino Niederreiter (acquired from Islanders)
  • Matt Cooke
  • Jonathon Blum

Players You Should Know

  • Ryan Suter
  • Zach Parise
  • Mikko Koivu
  • Jason Pominville
  • Danny Heatley
  • Jonas Brodin

Bringing in Pominville was a superb move by the Wild, even if they didn't have much time to enjoy it. Though Heatley is but a shadow of his former self, he can still put the puck in the net if healthy. It's hard to think this lineup is going to be in the bottom 10 again this year. Much was made about Jonas Brodin's rookie year, and how it impacted Suter. The pressure is now on for him to keep up his superb play.

Rivalry Potential

5 Weber Smashes

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Nashville fans certainly won't ever let Suter forget leaving Music City, especially now that he's in the same division. Matt Cooke still radiates a face-punching aura, and he and Matt Hendricks know each other well from the Pens/Caps rivalry. Plus, if either of these teams want to make the playoffs they have to make the wins again each other count.

Playoff Team?

Yes. Many things have to fall into place, but they have shown enough flashes of being a decent team in recent years to not be underestimated. However, if they can't find a way to put more pucks in the net, they won't be able to keep up for an entire season.

Game Days

Tuesday, October 8 Minnesota @ Nashville (the home opener)

Tuesday, October 22 Nashville @ Minnesota

Saturday, January 12 Minnesota @ Nashville

Thursday, February 6 Nashville @ Minnesota

Sunday, April 13 Nashville @ Minnesota (season finale)

Blogs to Follow

Besides our SB Nation fellows at Hockey Wilderness, you'll want to keep up with beat writer Mike Russo, one of the very best in the business.

More from On the Forecheck:

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