Courtesy of wild.nhl.com
The Minnesota Wild and with them, Ryan Suter, are coming for the first time this season to Bridgestone Arena for a tilt against the jilted Nashville Predators. This is the game many have been waiting for and a game many have circled in permanent red ink on the calendar. Nashville finally got the spark that Poile was hoping to ignite from the acquisition of Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk while bringing up Victor Bartley from Milwaukee. This conflagration was translated into a decisive 6-0 rout of the Oilers.
Suter is tied for second on the Wild roster in points with his signing buddy, Zach Parise. Mikko Koivu continues to lead by example as he paces the club with 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists). Parise and ultimate “thorn-in-the-Preds-side” Dany Heatley lead in the goal category with eight a piece. Cal Clutterbuck has also been activated off IR and his gritty style and hard-hitting energy is a constant disruptor for Nashville, and his soft goal-scoring hands are another attribute for Minnesota.
As it stands, Minnesota is right behind Nashville with 24 points but have played two less games. Backstrom has done the lion’s share of netminding going 9-6-2. This will be the first of a back-to-back home/away stint for the Wild with Vancouver coming to Xcel Energy Center Sunday night. The Wild will attempt to continue their score-by committee approach but the offensive weaponry the Wild boast will be a hard test for the Predators. Nashville may be up to the task as they shutout the Oilers Friday night in front of another sold-out crowd at 501 Broadway.
The Predators were mired in mediocrity before the Friday night game against Edmonton. Having gone 2-6-0 in their last eight games, the Predators needed a shake-up and GM David Poile was ready and willing to oblige. Finding gems off the waiver wire has been the Predators GM’s bread and butter for years. Clune at the start of the season was a head-scratcher but now has turned into one of the more capable players grinding out in the hard areas and even contributing with the odd point here and there from the 4th line.
Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk were brought into the lineup to spark the lines and take the place of some players that are either on IR (Yip) or reassigned (Halischuk) or simply healthy-scrtached (Spaling). Victor Bartley was also brought up from Milwaukee to add some offensive capability to the blueline for Nashville while Jonathan Blum got the press box treatment. Boychuk immediately made his presence known by tipping home a goal from a Shea Weber blast against the Oilers. On his first shift, Bobby Butler streaked down the side boards and drew a penalty that Hornqvist would eventually score the first goal of the game. Bartley held his own in sheltered minutes but looked tenacious on the puck and seemed to have the extra giddy-up needed for the Predators to play a faster transition game that netted them 6 goals in the contest.
Pekka Rinne also decided to play like Pekka Rinne. He stopped point-blank opportunities including two beauties against Ryan Jones on breakaway attempts. He cleared the zone and got more help from his defensive core than what he has seen over the last eight games. When Rinne is tracking the puck well and in the zone seeing more and more shots on net, that is when he can take over a game and steal one for the Predators. It was particularly nice to finally have some goal support by the forwards so Rinne could concentrate on keeping the puck out of the net and slowing any offensive chances rather than feeling he has to stand on his head to last till overtime or a shootout as Rinne has been apt to do many times this year.
Game time is at 7:00 P.M. Central time and can be heard on 102.5 the Game and viewed locally on FS Tennessee. If you like what you’re reading or have questions/comments feel free to write us below or follow us on Twitter @Preducated and @ThePredatorial.