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Martel's Musings: Game 12 - Nashville at Minnesota

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A two game losing streak? It's real. Nashville looked great against Los Angeles in its overtime defeat on Saturday, but fell behind 3-0 before dropping a 4-2 decision to Anaheim. In the road trip finale, can the Predators get back on the right track?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The CMA Awards are done in Nashville, which means the Predators can come home after Thursday night's game against the Wild. So far, they've collected three of a possible six points.

In that same span, they've fallen from first in the Western Conference to fifth and ninth overall in the NHL. More interesting is the fact that all five teams atop the West are from the Central Division and are separated by four points.

Nashville and Minnesota are tied with three other teams for the fewest games played in the league at 11.

Some teams in the division are going to miss out on the playoffs this year because the Central resides in some type of ridiculous hockey gauntlet. They may have the points to make it, but only so many teams can advance.

Stats and Interesting Notes of the Day

Last season, the road team won every meeting between these two teams -- two of the five ending in overtime.

The Predators have won their last three trips to Minnesota, outscoring the Wild 16-9 in those three games.

A win against the Wild would tie Nashville's best ever 12-game start at 8-2-2, dating back to the 2005-06 season.

On November 16th, 2006, Nashville and Minnesota set the Predators single-game franchise record for most shots by both teams when they combined for 90 in a 7-6 loss for Nashville at home.

Three Things vs Minnesota

First Central Division opponent

Who would have guessed that it would be 12 games before Nashville got its first taste of intradivisional play? And it comes in the form of Minnesota, at that.

The darling organization that saw plenty of speculation about firing its head coach midway through last season before acquiring the services of journeyman goaltender Devan Dubnyk who turned their season around and led them to a first round playoff win against the St. Louis Blues and being swept in the second round by eventual Cup champs -- the Chicago Blackhawks.

Currently, Minnesota has the same record as Nashville, but its goaltending is a tad suspect. Dubnyk has allowed 25 goals in 10 games, while hovering just a smidge under 90 percent for his save percentage. Backup Darcy Kuemper? Two games, six goals allowed, one overtime loss and a 4.34 goals against average.

Both Dubnyk and Kuemper combined for a 3-0-0 record last season against Nashville, while Rinne was 2-2-1. It'll be interesting to see who blinks first tonight.

Three double-digit point producers

The only player on Nashville's squad to break into double-digit points this season is James Neal -- scoring 10 points in 11 games.

The Wild have three, with two others only one point out.

Long-time Wild forward and current captain Mikko Koivu leads Minnesota with 11 points (three goals, eight assists), Thomas Vanek and Ryan Suter both have 10 points and both Zach Parise and Jason Zucker are right behind them with nine points.

I say that to point out that Minnesota has no trouble producing on offense. The Wild sit 11th overall in the NHL for goals forced as of Thursday morning. The obvious trick to stopping them is to hold their offense at bay.

Captain Obvious, much? I know, but the Wild are 7-1-0 this year when scoring three or more goals. Their only loss came in a 5-4 loss against Winnipeg, who have scored the fourth most goals in the league so far.

Forsberg returning to Earth

What turned out to be a masterful rookie performance last year for Forsberg, many wondered if he could duplicate the same this season for Nashville. As he was and is being looked at as part of the Predators offensive weaponry, Forsberg so far hasn't been able to duplicate the same amount of success he started with last year.

In the first 11 games of the 2014-15 season, Forsberg had five goals and four assists. This year, he has two goals and six assists -- only one point off the same pace.

The biggest difference? Shooting percentage.

Forsberg began with a fairly unsustainable 18.5 percent shooting percentage after 11 games last year, finishing the year at 11 percent. Right now, he's sitting at a meager 7.7 percent.

It's not to say it won't improve, which it will, but he hasn't had the same goal-scoring touch as he did to start the year last season.

He's still looked phenomenal to start and has made quite a few players look silly already, but the goals just haven't been there yet.

Player to Watch

Roman Josi: The Swiss defender led Nashville in goals scored against the Wild last season with three in five games. I expect him to continue that same trend against Minnesota tonight.

Prediction

(Game 9 Prediction: 4-2 Predators win. Result? 2-1 Predators win. CURRENT RECORD: 6-0-1.)

Nashville ends the road trip on a high note, leaving Minnesota with a 3-1 win.