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Nashville Predators vs. Minnesota Wild: Central Problems

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The Wild roll into town with the Predators needing a win, like, really bad. Isn't that fun?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This season has sucked.

There have been so many incredible moments. Dominating wins over the Ducks and Jets early. That crazy 7-5 win over the Senators. James Neal's goal to tie the game late on Thursday. The overall incredible puck-possessing ability of the team, being top 5 team in the league in that regard most of the year. Watching Roman Josi develop into a Norris candidate. Watching the development of Calle Jarnkrok. The arrival of RyJo. The incipience of #FialaTime.

And yet when you add to the scale these huge stretches of suck-age and add in some very alarming rates of terrible play by certain key members of the roster, the excitement is almost void. The Predators now find themselves barely clinging to life in the playoff race and they are running out of time to do much about it.

All is not lost. There is time to turn it around. But how long have we been saying that? A month? Two months?

The time is now.

The Minnesota Wild

The last time the Preds saw the Wild, Nashville won 3-2. James Neal had the game-winning goal as the Preds out-possessed yet another team. Regardless, the Wild are now ahead of the Preds in the Central, sitting in 4th with 52 points.

The Wild are scoring 2.63 goals per game, good for 14th in the league. Zach Parise leads the way with 16 goals, but don't sleep on Thomas Vanek (14) and Jason Zucker (11). The Wild don't light the lamp like crazy (though they are better than the Preds at it) but with their defense and goaltending they only need an above average offense to keep pace with most teams.

Defensively, the Wild allow 2.35 goals per game, good for 7th in the league. Devan Dubnyk is still a huge reason why, with his .920 save %. I think we can say goodnight to #DubnykRegression2015, because it's not catching on. It just seems like this is who Dubnyk is now... a very reliable, better-than-average goaltender that can shoulder most of the starts and carry his team into the playoffs.

Wouldn't that be nice.

The Nashville Predators

Behold, Victor Bartley's only goal as a Nashville Predator (and as an NHLer)

That was way back when the Preds were on the verge of being good again. Instead of being... well, whatever they are now.

I actually own a Victor Bartley autographed puck. It was one of those $20 "random Preds player autographed puck" deals at the silent auction table last year. You might think I was hoping for someone other than Victor Bartley. And you would be right. But it has made for an interesting addition to my Preds collection. It will now retire to the "Defensive Oddities" section of my closet, next to my Bob Boughner, Mark Eaton and Andy Delmore autographs.

It's never goodbye, Victor. Until next time...

(Also: let's hope that Bartley was secretly carrying around some bad mojo and now it is gone.)

Things I Hope To Hear Tonight

  • "Someone lost all of the gold helmets."
  • "Johansen to Neal to Johansen to Fiala to Neal to Fiala to Johansen, goal!!"
  • "Filip Forsberg with the patented reverse-hip check, knocking Ryan Suter all the way to Sauk City."
  • " [watches Anthony Bitetto for 4 seconds]... Anyone remember Victor Bartley? Those were the days."

The Important Details

7 PM start at the Bridge. FS-TN and 102.5 The Game have your coverage.