By Amanda DiPaolo
Nashville Predators 17-13-6
Minnesota Wild 17-14-5
Only one point separates 11th place Nashville from 13th place Minnesota in the Western Conference standings. The Predators are losers of five straight contests and are battling injuries to four of their top six forwards. In addition to Marty Erat, David Legwand, Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi being out of the lineup with injuries, Jordin Tootoo is also out of the lineup having entered the NHL’s substance abuse program.
The Predators are hoping for some offensive help by claiming Marek Svatos off of waivers from the St. Louis Blues. It was Nashville’s first waiver claim since they took goaltender Michael Leighton from Anaheim in November of 2006. According to the Tennessean, Svatos is expected to be in Minnesota on Friday to play against the Wild.
Nashville is 2-0 on games played December 31st. Last season, Legwand scored 28 seconds into overtime to give the Predators the 2-1 win. In 2007, Dan Ellis recorded the shutout and J-P Dumont scored for Nashville, giving the Predators the 1-0 victory. Friday’s game is the third time Nashville plays on December 31st.
For Nashville, all eyes will be on Marek Svatos, but there are other players who are getting the job done despite the team not winning games. Sergei Kostitsyn assisted on Colin Wilson’s first goal Tuesday night against Dallas, giving him 12 points in his last 13 games. Kostitsyn also logged 20:33 of ice time, the first time in his career the former Montreal Canadien played more than 20 minutes.
Patric Hornqvist may have a difficult time finding the back of the net right now, but it isn’t for lack of trying. At Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night, Hornqvist broke the franchise record for shots on goal in one game, previously held by Jason Arnott. Arnott had 12 shots on net against Toronto in December of 2007. Tuesday night, Hornqvist registered 14 shots on goal.
The last time Nashville played Minnesota, the Predators lost by a 5-2 score. It was the first game in back-to-backs and Nashville returned home to lose the next day losing 2-1 in a shootout against the New York Rangers in what was the first of 10 games that Nashville would collect points in going 8-0-2.
For Minnesota, the team beat the Sharks on Wednesday by a 5-3 score. The Wild are 4-1-1 in their last six games.
The same injuries have plagued the Wild since near the start of the season. The only new injury is former Predator Marek Zidlicky left Wednesday night’s game against the Sharks with an upper body injury. The defenseman is expected to miss up to two weeks. Backup goalie Josh Harding tore his right ACL before the season even started and was promptly replaced by Jose Theodore. James Sheppard is on injured reserve and out indefinitely after having left knee surgery. The only other injury for the Wild is Guillaume Latendresse who has been out of action since the end of October with a sports hernia. Latendresse has had his surgery.
After Friday’s game, the Predators return home on Sunday to face division rivals the Columbus Blue Jackets before heading out on the road to face their Californian Western Conference foes. Tickets are still available.
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