Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators: Game Notes, Players to Watch, Odds

Alexandre Carrier #45 of the Nashville Predators skates with the puck past Frederick Gaudreau #89 of the Minnesota Wild in the second period of the game at Xcel Energy Center on March 13, 2022 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Predators defeated the Wild 6-2. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Alexandre Carrier #45 of the Nashville Predators skates with the puck past Frederick Gaudreau #89 of the Minnesota Wild in the second period of the game at Xcel Energy Center on March 13, 2022 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Predators defeated the Wild 6-2. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

With a six-game winning streak going, the Nashville Predators have made a steady climb up the standings while their next opponent on Thursday is going the opposite direction.

The Nashville Predators (11-10-0) and Minnesota Wild (6-10-4) will do battle for the first time in 2023-24. It was a very close season series last season, with the Predators taking two of three matchups all in one-goal games.

It’s been tough sledding for the Wild as of late, and one can argue they’re the biggest disappointment in the NHL through the first quarter of 2023-24. They lost seven-straight before defeating the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

For two games in a row the Predators have gone with seven defensemen and 11 forwards, while they try to navigate the injuries to Thomas Novak and Cody Glass, while also bringing back into the lineup Luke Schenn.

Nothing official in terms of projected starting lineups for the Predators as of this writing. However, one would expect Andrew Brunette to keep sticking with what works by running out seven forwards again. 

The John Hynes Reunion Game for the Nashville Predators

Hynes won his debut as Head Coach of the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, and he stated that in particular he really liked the team’s “willingness to block shots” and liked what he saw from Minnesota’s penalty kill, holding the Blues to 0-for-4 on the power play.

“I mean, it’s an honor to be here and, as I’ve said, to have the opportunity to get back and coach this particular group really, really excites me.” -John Hynes on New Opportunity with Wild

That probably sounds familiar to Predators fans when Hynes was the head coach for four years, and let go over the offseason for Head Coach Andrew Brunette, who has much different systematic coaching philosophy.

Hynes considerably improved his point percentage as head coach of the Predators compared to his first NHL head coaching stop with the New Jersey Devils. The Predators were never awful. last place teams under Hynes, but they also never showed that their ceiling was anything more than a first round playoff exit.

The Predators had a win-loss record of 248-134-96 under Hynes in four seasons. The sore spot was no real improvement, a 3-11 postseason record, and ultimately a change in direction in the front office from David Poile to Barry Trotz. It didn’t make sense to keep the same head coach through this transition phase.

Hynes should provide stability to the locker room for Minnesota. He comes into a very similar situation as he did when he took over in early January of 2020 when the Predators fired Peter Laviolette.

That Predators team went on to qualify for the Qualifying Round in the pandemic shortened season, but lost to the Arizona Coyotes.

Forsberg Showing No Signs of Cooling Off on his Blazing Hot Start

Through the first 20 games Filip Forsberg joined Steve Sullivan with the most points through 20 games in Nashville Predators history. He then added another two points, and the overtime game-winning goal, in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In case you’re wondering, Sullivan didn’t register a point in his 21st game of 2006-07, so Forsberg is outpacing Sullivan now. And also outpacing Roman Josi‘s 96-point season in 2021-22.

Forsberg has 29 points in his career against the Wild, which is third-most against any NHL opponent. The only other two teams Forsberg has more career points against is the Colorado Avalanche (35) and the St. Louis Blues (38).

Forsberg also has three career game-winning goals against the Wild and an 18 percent shooting percentage. He’s 7th in the NHL overall in shots on goal with 87.

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This Matchup will Require Discipline and Focus from Nashville Predators

These types of games always scare me; the Predators have won six in a row and are finding their mojo, and the Wild are just sputtering along and probably heading towards a rebuild and the cold reality that their Stanley Cup window has passed them by.

Don’t think for a second that the Wild will come in lacking energy. Whenever team’s making a sudden midseason coaching change, you usually see an uptick in energy from the players. They want to play hard for the new head coach, that being John Hynes.

Being a divisional game, expect it to get chippy. The Predators don’t shy away from getting dirty despite becoming a more offensive minded team from Hynes to Brunette.

I can totally see this game having a parade to the penalty box. The Wild play a physically imposing game, but they’ve suffered some bad goaltending from Filip Gustavsson and Marc-Andrew Fleury, both with save percentages below 90%.

If you need a primary reason why the Wild are way below expectations, look at the goaltending. Gustavsson has performed nowhere near his expectations. If he shows improvement, then the Wild should start winning more consistently.

The Wild also have the worst penalty kill in the NHL, which can be directly tied to the shaky goaltending, but also poor structure. Hynes will probably clean that area up for this team.

From the Predators perspective, sure you would think they’re the prohibitive favorites in this one, but just be ready for a battle. Who prevails on special teams will be the difference-maker.

6-10-4. Bally Sports South, ESPN+. 151. MIN +102, NSH -122 (FanDuel). 8 PM ET. 98. Thurs, Nov 30. 11-10-0

Matchup Odds for Wild @ Predators

The Predators come in as the favorites in this matchup playing at home. The Wild have a road record of 2-6-2 while the Predators have a home record of 8-4-0.

According to FanDuel, the Predators are a -1.5 goal favorite and the Moneyline favorites of -122.

Forsberg is a +135 as an anytime goal scorer, with Ryan O’Reilly having longer odds to score a goal at +190. You can get +950 odds for Forsberg to light the lamp twice. He’s done that four times already in 2023-24.

Key Players to Watch

Mats Zuccarello leads the Wild in points with 22. His 17 assists are good for top-20 in the NHL, while the leading assist man for the Predators is Forsberg with 15 helpers.

Kirill Kaprizov, while still dangerous and capable of taking over tonight’s game, has been somewhat held in check this year with just 18 points in 20 games and only six goals. That’s after erupting for 40 goals in 2022-23.

The Wild will be without one of their top veterans in Ryan Hartman, who is serving a two-game suspension from a tripping incident on Alex DeBrincat. Hartman is listed as a repeat offender and averages nearly 17 minutes of ice time.

For the Predators, it’s all been about depth. Michael McCarron scored twice in the first period against the Penguins on Tuesday giving the Predators 16 players with at least five points.