The Minnesota Wild have been sharp in two games since the holiday break and vie for a third straight victory over a Central Division opponent when they visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The Wild knocked off visiting Dallas 4-2 on Wednesday before outlasting Nashville at home by the same score on Friday in the opener of the back-to-back set.
Mikael Granlund recorded his second career hat trick on Friday as Minnesota welcomed the return of Devan Dubnyk, who made 41 saves in a dazzling effort after missing the previous six contests with a lower-body injury. While the Wild are beginning to turn things around, the Predators have hit a speed bump with just one victory in their last five games (1-3-1) after earning at least one point in seven straight contests to start the month (6-0-1). Nashville dropped out of first place in the Central after Winnipeg’s victory over the New York Islanders on Friday and could be without leading scorer Filip Forsberg (34 points) against the Wild after the forward left the last game with an undisclosed ailment. Defenseman P.K. Subban has raised his production level with nine points in his last eight games after notching a goal and an assist in Friday’s setback.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Tennessee (Nashville)
ABOUT THE WILD (20-15-3): Granlund has led the way over the last two games with four goals and an assist to push his season total to 27 points, which ties him for second on the team with Jason Zucker. “He was making plays,” coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters of Granlund. “(The puck) was like a yo-yo on his stick tonight. When he gets like that, he’s as good as there is.” Eric Staal notched an assist in Friday’s victory and tops the Wild with 33 points while defenseman Ryan Suter also set up a goal and has registered six points in his last six games.
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (22-10-5): Kyle Turris scored one of the club’s two goals in Friday’s loss, giving him 18 points in 22 games since being acquired from Ottawa in a three-team trade. Forsberg tops the team with 15 goals but has not recorded one in the last seven games and Subban moved into second place on the Predators with 27 points - one more than forward Kevin Fiala. Pekka Rinne made 34 saves in Friday’s loss, dropping to 19-7-3 this season, and could sit out on the second night of the back-to-back set in favor of Juuse Saros (3-3-2, .918 save percentage).
1. Nashville RW Viktor Arvidsson has gone seven games without a goal after recording eight in his previous 19 contests.
2. Minnesota LW Zach Parise played with Iowa of the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint Thursday, recording an assist, and could make his 2017-18 debut soon.
3. The Wild has won five of the last seven meetings, including both matchups this season while totaling 10 goals.
PREDICTION: Predators 5, Wild 2