Predators-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 23, 2011
Sporting the best record in the NHL, the Minnesota Wild believe they are creating an identity that they are a difficult opponent to beat. The Wild will try for their second five-game win streak of the season Wednesday night when they host the Nashville Predators. Minnesota (12-5-3) has 27 points from 20 games, with Chicago and Pittsburgh owning the same point total while having played one more time. The Wild have relied on the goalie tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding to limit opponents to a league-best 1.95 goals per game. First-year coach Mike Yeo is pleased with the progress of his team. "Is Nashville going to come in here and change their game?" Yeo said. "I'm sure that they're not. And that's what we're trying to establish here is our own identity as far as the way that we want to play the game, it shouldn't change night in and night out." Harding is 5-1-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average and 3-4-0 with a 3.01 GAA against Nashville (10-6-4) while Backstrom - 7-4-2 with a 1.97 GAA - is 5-4-0 with a 3.10 GAA in nine career starts against the Predators. Nashville enters after an ugly performance as Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne gave up three goals on 13 shots in the first period and was replaced by Anders Lindback in Tuesday's 6-2 home loss to Edmonton. "I didn't want to continue to subject Pekka to the way we were playing,'' coach Barry Trotz said. Rinne is 5-2-1 with a 2.18 GAA in eight starts against the Wild while Lindback has never started against them. The Wild went 0 for 10 on the power play in losing three of four matchups with the Predators last season. Although their power play is still struggling at 13.5 percent and the club has been outshot in 15 games this season, Minnesota has found success with its defensive approach. "Guys came ready to play this year," right wing Pierre-Marc Bouchard said. "It's been fun so far, we want to keep it going." Minnesota owns an NHL-leading eight one-goal victories. "We've been in a lot of one-goal games all year long," right wing Dany Heatley said. "I don't think we get nervous when it comes down to the end. Guys just go out and do their job and find a way to win." The Predators are beginning a five-game trip as they try to avoid a third straight loss. They fell behind by three goals in the first period and never recovered Tuesday. "I think we all need to be better, particularly early," center Mike Fisher said. "We got some chances but we still have to be better and try and muster up something early and get the guys going. That was a frustrating, embarrassing one at home." Defenseman Shea Weber had an assist to give him seven points in a five-game streak. He's got four assists in his last three games against Minnesota. Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella, meanwhile, is expected to return after missing four consecutive games because of a concussion.
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