After a rousing win over the Florida Panthers, the Nashville Predators head north for a similarly challenging game. Today’s opponents, the Minnesota Wild, are fighting for the second wild-card spot in a lively Western Conference, after making some big moves this offseason.
The Wild have had a rough February, with their only two wins of the month coming in the shootout. Still, that’s after a strong rest of the season. While they’ve struggled offensively at even strength, and have gotten unlucky in the goaltenders they’ve faced, they have a great defense and strong special teams in front of solid goaltending of their own. 24-year-old Filip Gustavsson has been excellent in net, posting a .928 sv% in the games he’s started while allowing Marc-André Fleury (.901 sv%) time off.
As for the skaters, bad luck isn’t enough to stop Kirill Kaprizov, who’s scored 31 goals and added 33 assists. Mats Zuccarello is the assists leader with 35, and he and Joel Eriksson Ek (21G/24A) have both made it into the 20-goal club already. 22-year-old defender Calen Addison is already contributing plays from the blueline, with 24 assists to his credit; he leads the team’s defenders in points with 27.
Kaprizov is probably the team’s best play-driver as well as its most productive skater, but the Wild as a whole don’t struggle with keeping the puck moving in the right direction. Players like Ryan Hartman and Sam Steel have also actually managed to locate the offensive zone, while players like Matt Boldy also manage to combine good defense with at least some facsimile of offense. (Some of the Wild’s most shutdown players shut everything down, their own team included.)
This is arguably a worse matchup for Nashville than yesterday’s game, especially as the Wild last played on Friday and will be better rested. Still, it’s a game against a division rival, and those are usually fun to watch. The game airs at 1PM Central/2PM Eastern on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.