#66 Minnesota Wildvs.#65 Nashville Predators
Written by Valdis Pans
Nashville Predators (27-21-5-3) vs. Minnesota Wild (38-13-4-2)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, February 18, 2017
Where: Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Lines: Nashville +140/ Minnesota -160
Two teams, which both have beaten Dallas in their last fixture, will be facing each other, as the Nashville Predators (4th in Central Division) will be hoping to improve their road form against the Minnesota Wild (1st in Central), who are 2-1-0 against the Preds already this season…
The Nashville Predators (27-21-8) went into their bye week on a high, beating the Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena last Sunday for just their second victory in the past five games (2-3-0). The Preds were three goals down 12:02 minutes into the second period, with the visitors capitalizing on three power play opportunities. The rest of the game, though, went Nashville’s way, with the hosts stunning the Stars with five unanswered goals, including a shorthanded one and one during their own man-advantage. Roman Josi (9 goals, 28 points for the year) scored twice. Filip Forsberg (16 goals, 35 points) netted on a shorthanded breakaway. Calle Jarnkrok (11 goals, 21 points) got the 3-3 equalizer, while Mike Fisher (14 goals, 33 points) buried the puck into an empty net.
Goalie Pekka Rinne made a total of 18 saves, taking his season performance tally to 22-14-6 with a 2.39 GAA. He is 14-8-4 in the past meetings against the Minnesota Wild with a combined GAA of 2.36. The Predators are coming back to on-ice action, positioned 15th in the league with 62 points from 56 fixtures. They are scoring the 13th highest quantity of goals per game (2.79), conceding the 11th lowest amount in their defensive zone (2.64). The Preds rank 17th in power play with a 19.0% turnaround and have the 12th best penalty kill unit with 82.0% efficiency.
After being shut out 1-0 against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild (38-13-6) were back to their best against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, beating the visitors 3-1 for the evening. Ryan Suter (31 points for the year) got his 8th goal of the season during power play with just 1 second left in the first period. Erik Haula (12 goals, 20 points) made it 2-0 in the second period, while Jared Spurgeon (8 goals, 27 points) netted in the third during a 4-on-4 situation. Jason Pominville (10 goals, 36 points) registered another assist and still leads the NHL with 18 points and 14 assists since Jan. 19, notching up at least a point in 12 of his past 14 games. The win improved the Wild to 3-1-1 showing on their current franchise-long eight-game homestand. They are 8-2-1 in their past 11 overall outings.
Darcy Kuemper (7-3-3 for the season with a 3.05 GAA) gave a breather to Minnesota’s No. 1 Devan Dubnyk, making 34 saves. Dubnyk, though, is expected back between the sticks against Nashville, having recorded a 9-6-2 career performance versus the Predators with a 2.18 GAA. He is 31-10-3 for the current campaign with a 1.97 GAA. The Wild, meanwhile, are 2nd in the league with 82 points from 57 outings, having posted a 20-7-1 home record. They are 4th in most goals scored per game (3.28), 2nd in least goals given up on average (2.26), 7th in power play with a 21.8% success rate and 10th in penalty kill with 82.7% efficiency.
The Predators have won five of their past six contests in Minnesota. That’s a lot! However, the Preds are coming back from an extensive break, and they have lost all of their last five outings played on three or more days’ rest. The Wild, meanwhile, have been looking great even in the contests they have lost for one reason or another, so expect the home team to dominate this one…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...