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Playoffs hopes hanging by a thread, Wild and Predators to battle for final time this season

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Incredibly, the Wild still have a chance at the post season. Any other season, and they’d be toast. Tied with the Arizona Coyotes with 79 point, both teams are just two points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the Western Conference’s 2nd Wild Card spot. It’s also not like the Dallas Stars, who own the 1st Wild Card spot, have that locked down tight either with 82 points. All this is to say that the Wild still have a chance, but very slim one at that at making the playoffs.

Enter the Nashville Predators. Oh, and a literal house of horrors for the Wild - the Xcel Energy Center. It’s not #OurIce. It’s #Everyone’sIce. The last time the Preds faced the Wild, Minnesota put up a valiant effort only to fall in a controversial shootout move (Actually, it was only controversial to Devan Dubynk) in back-to-back games by Ryan Johansen. They were important points for Minnesota, and were part of a seven-game point streak for the Wild. However, a failure to win on home ice, coupled with some otherwise rough efforts, and the Wild still find themselves on the outside looking in.

Last time the Predators met the Wild, it was all about the Wild facing former player Mikael Granlund, while newly acquired Kevin Fiala scored twice on Pekka Rinne.

Granlund has since played in 10 games for Nashville since the trade and he’s put up a whopping 1 goal and 3 assists. His ice time has dropped nearly a full minute from his time in Minnesota, and the promise that he’d help the struggling Nashville power play, well...he’s provided just two points in that department. Granlund is certainly better than he’s shown so far, but he may be dealing with the trade pretty hard.

Fiala, conversely, has seen his minutes increase from 15 minutes per game to over 17 minutes per game. But while fans can clearly see the speed, and the puck skills this kid has, the points haven’t translated. He has just two goals and six assists in 13 games played. Really, Fiala just needs to shoot the puck. He has found himself numerous times with a good look and just tries to make one extra move and the chance ends without a shot. His shot rates per hour have declined as well. Maybe he’s feeling the pressure to perform after his new general manager dubbed him a potential “game breaker,” but for now, he’s just a lot of flash and dash.

However, this match-up is more than two players. The Preds have lost two straight, with the most recent loss coming at the hands of the Jets. Nashville got thumped 5-0 in Winnipeg. The Jets pulled ahead by four points to grab a stranglehold on first place in the Central Division. Winnipeg also clinched a playoff berth with win over the Preds and Minnesota not winning against the Hurricanes.

Minnesota, on the other hand, had a very nice win over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. Then they followed it up by getting dunked on by the Carolina Hurricanes. Minnesota lost 5-1, after starting the third period with a 2-1 deficit. Afterward, the Carolina Storm Surge concluded with a slam dunk into a basketball hoop they brought on to the ice, and about two illegal pick-and-rolls.

March Madness is in the air.

This Wild team is maddening.

It all fits.

The puck drop is set for just after 7 PM CT, and can be watched on NBC Sports Net. You can stream the game on the NBC Sports Live app, as well as listen to the game on FM 100.3 in the Twin Cities, or the Wild Radio Network affiliates. The have just 5 games remaining after tonight’s central division collision. Hopefully the Wild can make it remotely interesting.