After several days off, the Nashville Predators return to action tonight against the Minnesota Wild. Once again, the game will have big impacts on the Central Division standings, as the Wild are currently ahead of the Preds—they’ll seek to extend their lead, while the Preds will seek to narrow the gap. While the Preds have had a bumpy few weeks, the Wild are 9-0-1 in their last ten games. I’d imagine the thought of breaking that point streak is a tempting one.
Kirill Kaprizov has been a huge part of the Wild’s offensive production. His 39 goals and 85 points lead the team, while his 46 assists trail only Mats Zuccarello’s 49. In terms of shot and chance generation, he’s been above-average but not one of their most key offensive contributors (that honor goes to Kevin Fiala, among the regulars, with major contributions from Ryan Hartman and—with excellent defense as well—Jared Spurgeon).
Zuccarello’s 69 points are second on the team, while Fiala and Hartman have been rewarded for good play with results; Hartman has 27 goals and 53 points, while Fiala has 23 goals and 61 points. Frederick Gaudreau has also been doing well for himself in Minnesota (10G/22A, seventh on the team in total points).
It would be petty to belabor the point that Hartman was traded for seventeen games (plus one playoff round) of an aging Wayne Simmonds, or even that Gaudreau was allowed to walk in free agency.
All in all, the Wild are a team without many salient weaknesses—almost all of their players come out above even in expected goal share, which can cover a lot of blemishes. Their goaltending has been shaky, but their excellent even-strength defense has compensated for that. Their penalty kill is a little shaky, which could be worth exploiting. Offensively, they’re deeply average at 5v5 and notably below-average on the power play, but they’ve been shooting the lights out from all over the ice.
They’ve also addressed the goaltending question with the acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s allowed only four goals in the three games he’s played since the trade deadline, putting up a glittering .958 sv% for them and allowing Cam Talbot (.912) some respite.
How to Watch
The game airs at 7PM Central on ESPN+ and Hulu, or on 102.5 The Game.