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Preview: Wild hungry for win against Predators

Coming into Nashville with our eyes open and hopefully ready to play a simple game. 

NHL: APR 24 Wild at Predators Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Minnesota Wild are heading down to Broadway to face a recently underwhelming but still potentially dangerous team in the Nashville Predators.

Wild at Predators

When: 7:00 p.m. CT
Where: Bridgestone Arena
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

We’re just going to say it out loud: losing to the San Jose Sharks Monday night hurt a little bit, but we’re trying to shake it off and play a good game tonight in Nashville. It’s the first time the Wild and the Predators have met up this season but historically the Predators like to score big against the Wild, so there’s a history of bad blood between the teams in play.

The Predators seemingly have the pieces to be a formidable opponent after making some solid off-season moves. They re-signed their top goal-scorer Filip Forsberg to an eight year contract, added former Wild player Nino Niederreiter to their lineup as a top-six forward, and hired retired franchise goalie Pekka Rinne as a coach. In reality, they’ve been losing more than they’ve been winning in a series of special team breakdowns, apparent loss of confidence, and both a middling offense and defense. It shows in the standings, where they’re sitting near the bottom of the league, and second from the bottom in their division.

The good news for the Wild is the Preds are a team that likes to take penalties, to their detriment but surely our advantage, even if our powerplay percentage has dropped in recent games. As we’ve discussed before, the Wild have gotten a decent amount of goals this season with the better man advantage, finding the back of the net on penalties drawn by the opponents.

Projected Wild lineup

Kirill Kaprizov — Frederick Gaudreau — Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Foligno — Joel Eriksson Ek — Matt Boldy
Connor Dewar — Marco Rossi — Mason Shaw
Adam Beckman — Sam Steel — Brandon Duhaime

Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison

Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start in net, fresh and ready to go after a night off.

It’s nothing new for the top line as Kirill Kaprizov, Frederick Gaudreau, and Mats Zuccarello combined for another stellar play against the Sharks. We’re expecting them to show up and extend their point streak to four games.

Joel Eriksson Ek picked up three points (two goals and an assist) the last time he played against the Predators, and we’re hoping that energy continues. The second line is due for some points soon, anyway, and now is the time.

Mason Shaw is here to stay, after being anything but invisible recently, adding some tenacity and spark to the third line and being rewarded with an assist on Connor Dewar’s shorthanded goal against the Sharks. It’s been nice to see him succeed and keeping him up will add some confidence in our forward depth.

There’s no word if Tyson Jost is back in the lineup, but Joseph Cramarossa was sent back down on Monday and Brandon Duhaime is expected to be ready to play against the Predators. Since there was no practice yesterday, the specific lines have not been reported on yet.

Projected Predators lineup:

Filip Forsberg — Juuso Parssinen — Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter — Ryan Johansen — Matt Duchene
Cole Smith — Mark Jankowski — Tanner Jeannot
Eeli Tolvanen — Colton Sissons — Michael McCarron

Roman Josi — Dante Fabbro
Mattias Ekholm — Alexandre Carrier
Ryan McDonagh — Jeremy Lauzon

Juuse Saros is assumed to be the starting goalie. While he’s not in late-season form quite yet, when he’s good. he’s really good and it can be a challenge getting past him.

The Predators recently filled a blank space in their roster by calling up another Finnish prospect in a move that paid off unexpectedly well. Juuso Parssinen scored his first goal in his first NHL game against the New York Rangers. It was a win that certainly boosted the morale of the struggling team, and the afterglow might not wear off tonight, if we’re unlucky,

Forsberg is always one to watch, and he certainly is dangerous with 15 points (five goals, ten assists). We all know how karma loves a former Wild player and Niederreiter has six goals coming into the matchup.

Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. CT.

Burning Questions

Coach’s Challenge: Will the Wild follow Dean’s instruction to play more simple?

Head coach Dean Evason has made his displeasure with the way the team has been playing clear and blamed the lack of success on an emphasis on style instead of grit. We’re certainly inclined to agree. Will the team take it to heart and start playing a simpler, better game tonight, or will they fall into the trap they know all too well and, as Coach said, keep playing cute?

Will this game be one for the special teams?

Unless something changes or the Preds decide to play a clean game, we’re thinking we’ll see a lot of powerplay action. It’d be nice for the Wild if they can capitalize on it, and they’ve done well during the season, but will we come through when we need it most?

Mason Shaw’s here to stay! How will he perform?

It must feel good getting called up for good, and it would be really something if that translated into production on the ice against the Predators. He’s been fun to watch, and we’re just hoping he does something memorable tonight.