Nashville Predators: Predators And Wild Try To Continue Win Streaks

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Craig Smith /

After winning five games in a row, the Nashville Predators take the show on the road to face the Minnesota Wild. It is a battle of two impressive streaks.

The Nashville Predators are on their longest winning streak since February 22-March 1, 2016. They head to the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota tonight to take on a Minnesota Wild team that’s on a three game winning streak of their own. Two hot teams will meet in chilly Minnesota, and one of them will cool off.

Meet The Wild

Coach Bruce Boudreau led the Wild to 106 points in his first season with the squad last year. The Wild faded towards the end of last season & got off to a bit of a rough start in October, but look to be turning things around right now. We can credit a lot of this to the performance of two players.

Goalie Devan Dubnyk hasn’t given up a goal in 135 minutes & 5 seconds & is riding a three-game shutout streak. He’ll be trying to extend that streak to four on Thursday night.

On offense, it’s been Jason Zucker carrying the load for Minnesota. His fifteen points leads the squad, and he had scored the Wild’s last six goals until Nino Niederreiter broke the streak early in Tuesday night’s game. Zucker’s eight points in his last five games, including a hat trick in Montreal last Thursday night, are a large part of the Wild’s recent success.

The Wild’s first line has performed well, with veteran Eric Staal having a strong start & raising the play of linemates Zucker & Niederreiter. They’ll give whichever of Nashville’s top lines they draw a tough assignment. Once you get past that line, Minnesota’s offensive production drops off rapidly. Do keep an eye on Chris Stewart as he’s scored six goals this season, & Tyler Ennis‘s game has been trending upwards recently.

Nashville Predators are all too familiar with Ryan Suter, and he’s off to another strong start in 2017-18. He & his partner Jared Spurgeon have been effective two-way players this season & rank third & fourth on the team in points.

Minnesota’s 85.0 penalty-killing percentage rates as fifth best in the NHL. Their 15.4 power play percentage is sixth-worst & they don’t draw a lot of penalties. The latter part of that sentence could change tonight if recent Predators games are any indication.

Nashville Predators Look To Continue Winning Ways

The addition of Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators has solidified the top six. Turris’ line with Craig Smith & Kevin Fiala is already drawing attention. Smith has scored three goals in the last five games & is already halfway to his goal total from last season with six. If he can maintain his 17.1 shooting percentage he’s in for a big season. Fiala had his best game of the season Tuesday night & found his way into the goal column for the first time.

Filip Forsberg scored his 100th goal of his career on Tuesday night. He leads the Predators’ offense with nine goals & seventeen points early in the season. His 19.6 shooting percentage is best on the team with the exception of Turris after two games. Viktor Arvidsson has scored three goals in three games and is doing typical Arvidsson things. Ryan Johansen has yet to find the back of the net, but is still Nashville’s best player in advanced statistics & making things easier for his linemates. He’ll establish himself in the point column soon enough.

Nick Bonino‘s return on Tuesday night was a successful one. In addition to scoring his second goal of the season, he checked in with the best tweet I’ve seen from a Nashville Predator this year.

Say what you will about his contract. Even if his injuries have limited his on-ice contributions so far he’s making an impact off the ice.

The Nashville Predators didn’t practice on Wednesday. Barring unforeseen circumstances we should see the same top two lines Thursday night. The bottom two saw some changes on Tuesday. Calle Jarnkrok moved from his traditional center spot to wing on a line with Colton Sissons & Miikka Salomaki.

On defense we’ll likely see Roman Josi & Mattias Ekholm paired together. P.K. Subban & Alexei Emelin will follow them, and Matt Irwin & Anthony Bitetto figure to be the third pair. Pekka Rinne will likely be in goal tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anders Lindback on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche, after he was called up today.

Here is the projected line-up:


Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson

Kevin Fiala – Kyle Turris – Craig Smith

Miikka Salomaki – Calle Jarnkrok – Colton Sissons

Cody McLeod – Nick Bonino – Austin Watson


Roman Josi – Mattias Ekholm

Alexei Emelin – P.K. Subban

Matt Irwin – Anthony Bitetto


Pekka Rinne

Anders Lindback

Steve’s Keys To The Game

Offensive Aggression: The Wild goalie is on quite the streak right now. Goal opportunities are going to be few & far between. The Nashville Predators need to push Minnesota back on their heels & bring the same type of offensive effort they’ve been bringing the past four games. I think it was Wayne Gretszky or Michael Scott who said that you miss one-hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.

Second Period Push: The Wild’s struggles in the second period have become an annoying trend for Wild fans & their coach. Boudreau said after Tuesday’s game it’s something they need to work on. Philadelphia out-shot Minnesota 17-7 in the second period on Tuesday night, but came out scoreless. The third period is where the Wild have been making hay lately, so the Predators need to take advantage of a likely lull in the second period for Minnesota.

Division Rivalries: As wonderful as things are going, the Nashville Predators can’t afford to rest on their laurels. After a lengthy stretch of games out West & some home meetings with top Eastern Conference squads, the Predators return to Central Division play tonight. Four of Nashville’s next five games are against Central squads. With the way the Predators are playing right now, it’s a chance to move up the standings while moving other teams they’ll be competing with playoff spots for down.

It’s great to beat the Penguins & Capitals, but their eventual playoff spots don’t affect the Predators. Getting one over on the Wild tonight could make all the difference in seeding in April.

What to Expect

One team playing well on offense versus one team playing well on defense could produce a styles clash. Nashville’s streak includes three wins on the road, & their road record is a virtual tie with Minnesota’s 4-3-1 home record. If the Predators score early, the Wild could be in trouble and it could get one-sided quickly. For the Wild to win, it’ll need to be a low-scoring affair heavy on goaltending & defense. It’s tough not to be optimistic as a Predators fan, but I imagine that Wild fans feel the same way going into tonight.

The Nashville Predators should win if they can limit their mistakes. They’ve gotten away with sloppy mistakes recently. They can’t afford that tonight against a goaltender that’s been standing on his head.

Follow The Game

Fox Sports Tennessee’s coverage will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT with Predators Live! Pregame. Lyndsay Rowley will have a lovely new haircut, as she’s donated some of her locks to the Children With Hair Loss organization. Way to go, Lyndsay! Wily Daunic & Chris Mason will have the call when the puck drops around 8:08 p.m. ET/7:08 p.m. CT. If you’re away from a television, you can listen on 102.5 The Game.