|Nashville Predators||Minnesota Wild|
|5-on-5 Save %||.946||2nd||.912||19th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.20||30th||3.70||24th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.80||7th||3.50||5th|
The Wild aren't awful, but they aren't exactly a contender, either. They're getting outshot regularly, the goaltending hasn't been able to make up for that, and the special teams have been nothing to get excited about. The Predators, meanwhile, are playing Rope-A-Dope, getting out-shot by a healthy margin but relying on a collapsing defense and Pekka Rinne's goaltending to hold onto a lead whenever they get one.
Nashville's recent 7-game road trip began January 22nd with a 3-1 victory at Minnesota, in which Chris Mason saw his only action of the season so far.
All that optimism which took root in Minnesota on July 4th, as Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were flashing twin $98 million smiles and shaking hands with Craig Leipold, has turned sour of late, as the Wild come into tonight's game on a 3-game losing streak.
Naturally, this is leading to crazy talk in the press:
Less than three weeks into the most promising season in franchise history, the Wild played without grit or intelligence in a 4-1 loss to Vancouver, a failure that could alter expectations and shorten tenures surely as it brought jeers raining down on the Xcel Energy Center ice on Thursday night.
In hockey, when you've tried everything but firing the coach and your team doesn't respond, you tend to fire the coach. Maybe owner Craig Leipold won't force that move immediately, but he has no reason to be patient after making an immense investment in front-line talent and watching his team fall apart.
Whether Mike Yeo is responsible for his team's slump is irrelevant.
Of course, that kind of "it's so crazy it just might work" talk is about the worst way to run a franchise, but hey, go for it.
All eyes in Smashville will be on Ryan Suter, of course, the guy who left the Predators as an unrestricted free agent, yet still draws ire from many fans.
#20 / Defenseman / Minnesota Wild
Jan 21, 1985
10 games, 4 assists and a -7 Plus/Minus have Predators fans howling in derision, and the puck-possession metrics haven't looked good for Sutes so far, either as he boasts the worst Corsi numbers on the Minnesota defense so far. Let's just remember that reworking a blueline is no simple task, as we've seen in Nashville already.
The guy who is paying early dividends is Zach Parise, whose 6 goals and 4 assists so far lead the Wild in scoring.
With a four-game winning streak under their belt, confidence is rising among the Predators' ranks. Martin Erat and Colin Wilson have the hot hands up front, and the lineup has enjoyed a rare amount of stability, as Barry Trotz tends not to change much while the wins are coming.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
In goal, Pekka Rinne has enjoyed considerable success against Minnesota historically, with an 8-3-1 record in 13 games, with 3 shutouts and a 2.20 GAA.
So head over to Hockey Wilderness to sample the mood in Minnesota, check back here later for pre-game updates as they become available, the Game Thread to follow along with tonight's action, and tune in to 102.5 The Game later as I'm joining birthday boy Willy Daunic tonight for the post-game show.
The Preds return home to face Chicago on Sunday - get the best deals on tickets at TiqIQ!