Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
The Minnesota Wild are looking to play spoiler from here on out and what better way than to derail the Predators drive to get home ice at season’s end.
The Predators lost a heart-breaker on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd, unfortunately swimming with red shirts of the opposition. To come back from a 4 goal deficit to tie the game up was a spectacular thing to behold and sent a message around the league that this team will not give up…ever. The word Trotz would use is…resiliency.
The Wild are coming off a shootout win over those same Blackhawks and riding a 3 game winning streak. Lately, the Wild are known to take extra time to decide their games; the last three going to overtime/shootouts to decide the outcome.
Game time is at 7 P.M. central and few if any tickets remain. FS Tennessee has the T.V. feed, and 102.5 the Game will have the airwaves.
This Year’s Series: 2-1-0 (Home 1-0-0) (Away 1-1-0)
Looking at the Wild: Dany Heatley is pacing the Wild with 60 points. Heatley and company have done a decent job this year at scoring, but the problem for the Wild has been injuries, defense and goaltending.
Harding and Backstrom are decent but not game-changing. Backstrom had this ability a few seasons ago but has lost his stride in the last two years. The defensive core gives up too much whether it be time and space or the odd-man rush that leads to goals. Case in point, every defenseman who has played over 15 games for the Wild with the exception of Clayton Stoner (you heard me right, Clayton Stoner) is a minus on the year.
The forwards aren’t any better with only Latendresse, who has been injured for most of the year, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley being on the plus side of things (Koivu at team-leading +11).
Looking at the Predators: A ton of heart was shown Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that is close on the heels of Nashville battling for the 4th-6th spots in the Western Conference. After Chicago went up 4-0 in the second period, the Predators fought and clawed their way back into the game to make it very interesting in the third. Only a Seabrook goal a minute after the tying goal would end this match in Chicago’s favor, but the message was already sent.
Alexander Radulov has been playing out of his mind, backing up all the expectations and proving that he belongs in this league against the finest hockey players in the world. In six games he has six points (3 goals, 3 assists) and his goal against the Blackhawks by splitting the defense of Chicago for a backhand score was highlight-worthy.
For the Wild to win: Traffic to the net and a tighter defensive scheme. Nashville now has tons of speed coming through the neutral zone with Radulov, Erat Hornqvist and Bourque bringing the wheels on a nightly basis. It’ll be up to the defensive lines for the Wild to slow that process while supplying an agressive forecheck; something Nashville has struggled with all season.
Backstrom has to start clamping down in net. He may have won the last two games in a shootout, but fact of the matter is he allowed 5 goals total in those 2 games. With Nashville finally having some offensive weapons, the Wild will be in the crosshairs all night and it’ll be up to Backstrom to thwart any oppotunity for the Predators to start piling up the shots and goals.
For the Predators to win: Use the drive and determination showed to rebound against Chicago and play like that the rest of the season and post-season. Even in the face of a taken over barn by Chicago fans, the Predators still found a way to battle back and light the lamp on Chicago four times. Led by Captain Shea Weber, the Predators have never and will never back down from any adversity (Columbus and Detroit know this all too well).
Pekka Rinne had two flukey goals go in Saturday and a flat-out breakaway by one of the league’s best go five-hole. Rinne is still one of the elite goalies in the NHL and he has a chance to prove that on this final week of the regular season. If Rinne and the defense of Nashville can shut down offensive phenoms in Setoguchi, Heatley and Koivu, look for them to take that mentality against Dallas and Colorado later this week who have some offensive talent of their own.
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Stay HardCore, friends