Wild look to end run of futility vs. Predators

NHL
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It’s been nearly two years since Minnesota beat Central Division rival Nashville.

Amid playoff implications, the Wild look to avoid an eighth straight loss to the visiting Predators on Tuesday night.

Currently on the outside looking in at the playoff picture in the crowded Western Conference, Minnesota hasn’t been in postseason position since early December. However, the Wild are 12-6-1 over their past 19 games and had won three in a row before Sunday’s 4-3 home loss to Washington.

“It’s crunch time now, and we have to have that same energy that we have had the last few games,” veteran forward Zach Parise, who has two goals and three assists in the past three games, told the Wild’s official website. “We’re trying to get in (the playoffs). So, (games are) gonna have emotions, and it’s gonna be like that for the next (17) games.”

Three of those games will come against Nashville, which currently owns the second and final wild-card spot in the West and is one point ahead of Minnesota — with Winnipeg and Arizona in between. The Wild have been outscored 24-11 during an 0-4-3 series slide since beating the Predators on March 24, 2018.

Nine of those Predators goals have come in the first two meetings this season, both in October and at Nashville. The Predators’ Pekka Rinne stopped 48 of the 50 shots he faced in those games, including 26 during a 4-0 victory on Oct. 24.

However, he was pulled after allowing five third-period goals, and eight goals in 31 shots overall, during Monday’s 8-3 loss to Edmonton, and is expected to give way to Juuse Saros in this back-to-back scenario.

Saros has a 2.44 goals-against average in winning three of his past four starts. He also has a minuscule 0.65 GAA and a .976 save percentage while going 3-0-0 against the Wild during his career.

The Predators have lost two in a row following a 6-1-1 stretch, and must mentally regroup after seeing Monday’s game unravel after they rallied from a 2-0 hole and were tied 3-3 after two periods.

“It’s a big game (Tuesday),” Predators defense Roman Josi, who set a career high with his 16th goal and matched a personal-best 61 points Monday, told Fox Sports Tennessee. “Obviously after a loss like (Monday’s), it’s hard, but we play (Tuesday), and we’ve got to make sure that when we wake up in the morning, we wake up mad and angry, because it’s a huge game.”

Josi has three goals and five assists during his past 12 games vs. Minnesota. However, he and the rest of the Nashville blue-liners could be minus veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who exited early Monday because of an injury.

Minnesota’s Alex Stalock and Devan Dubnyk split net time in the first two meetings with Nashville this season. Stalock, whose four-game winning streak ended Sunday, has a 2.27 goals-against average while starting the last four for Minnesota. However, he’s 0-5-1 with a 3.00 goals-against average in his career vs. Nashville.

Dubnyk, who last started on Feb. 23, has lost four in a row vs. Nashville, but owns a lifetime 2.24 goals-against average over 26 career games against the Predators.

Ex-Predator Kevin Fiala has a team-leading 49 points, plus 11 goals and 10 assists, in his past 14 games. The Minnesota forward has two goals in four career games vs. Nashville. Teammate Ryan Donato has three goals with two assists over the past four contests.

–Field Level Media

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