Season series: This is the fourth of five games this season. The Minnesota Wild are 2-1-0 and have won the past two meetings. Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves in earning his first NHL shutout in a 4-0 win against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 12.
Big story: In their final game before the Olympic break, the Wild will look to win the season series against the Predators and, at the same time, put more distance between them and the Vancouver Canucks in the wild-card standings in the Western Conference. The Wild (67 points) lead the Canucks by four points for the first wild-card spot.
Nashville is in last place in the Central Division, but a win against the Wild on Thursday would pull the Predators to within six points of Minnesota. While the Wild are done for three weeks following the game, Nashville will have one more chance to gain even more ground on the Wild when it returns home to play the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.
Every team in the Central is above .500, and Nashville's 59 points are seven better than any other last-place team in the League. The Predators have won four of their past seven games but have taken at least a point in six of them, keeping them on the fringe of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture.
Glad Cullen and Stalberg are back. This game feels like the make or break point even if it is technically possible to go on a run after the Olympics.
It definitely feels like the make or break point because winning this and the Ducks game would put us within a respectable distance of the playoffs before the break, and because this is a four-point game and historically the Preds have **** the bed in previous do-or-die games this year. Seems like every time we're in a position to be within 4-5 points of a playoff spot with a win, we lose.
If we win tonight I might start to believe just a little bit. If we lose, I don't think we'll be making the playoffs. Maybe that's too dramatic, but at some point they need to put up or shut up.
I think we need to beat Minny tonight to make a statement. Either we are gonna contend for a playoff spot or we can't. I hope we bury suter and his company.
I tend to agree. A win here maybe makes the teams above us worry that we are coming and with Rinne possibly getting better things get a bit scary. Lose the two going into the break and I don't think anyone is worried coming out of it.
Yeah we aren't playing with a full deck right now, but at some point the group we do have has to put up or go to the house. In my mind this is one of those games.
Hutton should have that goal, but Brodin with the type shot we need to see more often from our players ... around two feet off the ice, over the pad, to the side of the goalie. Too often what we see from our guys is the puck into the pads, the goalie's crest, or wide. EDIT - See Josi's shot for an example.
Smith playing hungry still.
Not sure about Stalberg. Maybe healthy enough to come off IR but still not the healthiest choice so he sits ... shopped ... or the effort from Beck over the past few games pushing him up the depth chart over Stalberg.