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Wild @ Predators: Game preview, projected lineups, how to watch

It's a stoppable force vs. a moveable object tonight as the sputtering Wild offense matches-up against terrible Carter Hutton.

If the Wild can beat the easily-beatable Rinne, they can topple the otherwise-good Predators.
If the Wild can beat the easily-beatable Rinne, they can topple the otherwise-good Predators.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild @ Nashville Predators

7:00 PM Central Time, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Watch on: Fox Sports-North     Listen on: KFAN 100.3, Wild Radio Network, Wild.com
SBNation Predators Blog: On the Forecheck

Last night was a game where the Wild needed to take care of business. Minnesota had a Jets team in their building that was on the second night of a back-to-back. They just had to beat the last-place team in their division, and they'd be able to keep within striking distance with St. Louis.

They didn't. They dropped the ball against Winnipeg, and they didn't look good during the loss. They were out-shot at 5v5, and they left their biggest game-breaker in Matt Dumba on the bench for two of their three power plays, as well as passing over him in an extra attacker situation. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, but as this slump gets bigger (Minnesota is 2-5-1 in January) it gets more and more frustrating to continue to see Ryan Suter pass the puck along the perimeter to Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville.


And now it's the Wild's turn to be on the second of a back-to-back, heading on the road to Nashville, who is now just 6 points behind the Wild in the standings. It's a huge game for the Predators, as a win tonight not only gains ground on the Wild, but could leap-frog them into the second Wild Card spot.

It's a little weird to see Nashville out of the playoff picture (at the moment) after being so good last season, when the almost won the Central Division. And really, they're pretty good this year. They're 3rd in the league in Shot Attempts per 60, and are 4th in Shot Attempts Allowed/60. Even their power play has been good this year, cracking the Top-10 by converting at a 20% rate. They've really only been held back by their goaltending- only Calgary has a worse save% than Nashville's .894.

Further helping that team is their recent acquisition of Ryan Johansen, who has already made an impact. When we last saw him two weeks ago, he was firmly in Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella's doghouse, but it appears a change of scenery is all Johansen needed. Freed from Tortorella's "motivational" techniques and the bitter feelings of this summer's contract dispute, Johansen has 2 goals and 6 points in 4 games, giving the Predators some much-needed scoring punch.

Another player brought in to help Nashville get goals is Kevin Fiala. The 19-year-old 1st-round pick is playing in his 3rd career NHL game after putting up an impressive 17G-24A-41P statline in 67 AHL games. Fiala isn't big, but he's an incredibly talented scorer, with speed and skill for days. He scored his first NHL goal on Thursday by crashing the net and burying a Johansen rebound. You will definitely want to keep your eyes on him tonight.

Given that the Wild are playing like garbage and that Nashville is a goaltender away from being one of the league's best, don't be shocked at all if the Predators leave the Wild in the dust. They'll have a chance to start making that run tonight.

Game starts at 7:00 PM tonight, so let's toss it to the Tale of the Tape and Projected Lineups.

Projected Lineups

Minnesota Wild

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Zach Parise

Mikael Granlund

Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek

Mikko Koivu

Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter

Charlie Coyle

Justin Fontaine

Chris Porter

Faceoff Guy

Erik Haula

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Ryan Suter

Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella

Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin

Nate Prosser

Goalies

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Nashville Predators

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Kevin "Lil' Kev" Fiala

Ryan Johansen

James Neal

Filip Forsberg

Mike Ribeiro

Calle Jarnkrok

Eric Nystrom?!?!?!

Mike Fisher

Craig Smith

Miikka Salomaki

Paul Gaustad

Cody Bass

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Roman Josi

Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm

Ryan Ellis

Anthony Bitetto

Barret Jackman

Goalies

Carter Hutton

Pekka Rinne