The Minnesota Wild emerged from the Christmas break to put together a strong performance and hope it works as a springboard when they host the Nashville Predators on Friday for the first of a home-and-home set. The Wild knocked off Dallas 4-2 on Wednesday to earn a point for the ninth time in their last 10 home contests (8-1-1) after dropping four of the previous five overall.
“I didn’t want to talk about it being a huge game, but it was a huge game,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters after Wednesday’s win. “We called it the start of the second half. You get a chance to reset.” The Wild woke up Thursday in playoff position in the tight Western Conference and plays eight of the next 11 at home while the Predators are on top of the Central Division after ending a three-game slide with a 2-1 victory at St. Louis on Wednesday. Nashville is 7-2-2 in December and allowed nine goals combined in the seven victories - two in the last four. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne earned his 19th victory with 29 saves Wednesday and has won four straight on the road - yielding only two goals total - and is 15-10-4 lifetime versus Minnesota.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (22-9-5): Coach Peter Laviolette has been trying new combinations up front lately, including the all-Swede trio of Filip Forsberg (team-leading 34 points), Calle Jarnkrok (seven goals in December) and Pontus Aberg. “I know it’s not ideal slotting of the lines, but you go on the road and you don’t get the matchups,” Laviolette told reporters. “. … What it does is gives me a really good balance on the lines.” Forward Kevin Fiala has posted eight goals and 12 points in 11 December contests while defenseman P.K. Subban owns seven points (three goals) in the past seven games.
ABOUT THE WILD (19-15-3): Devan Dubnyk (lower-body) was the backup goalie during Wednesday’s victory and could return this weekend after missing six games, but Alex Stalock is 5-4-0 this month with a solid .923 save percentage in his place. Jason Zucker snapped a seven-game point drought with a goal and an assist in the win over Dallas and has 27 points overall - five behind team leader Eric Staal. While Minnesota has struggled on the power play with four conversions in 39 chances over the last 14 games, the Wild is 33-for-36 on the penalty kill in an eight-game span.
1. Nashville RW Viktor Arvidsson and team-leader Forsberg (15) have each gone six games without a goal.
2. Minnesota D Ryan Suter, who leads the league in average ice time (27:13), has registered five points in his last five games.
3. The Wild earned a 6-4 victory over the Predators on Nov. 16 after winning three of five in the series last season.
PREDICTION: Predators 4, Wild 2