Minnesota Wild defenseman Brent Burns started his day like he does every gameday when the team is on the road. He meets his buddies for breakfast in the hotel and then the group will head over to the rink for a morning skate. Burns’ normal ritual was interrupted today by a text that he had never received in his life. It read that Burns was selected to play in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. While Burns was scheduled to enjoy a family vacation to Mexico at the end of January, he’ll happily cancel the trip for this honor. But before he worries about playing with his fellow All-Star teammates on January 30, he’s more concerned with what he and his fellow Wild teammates have on hand for the next two weeks, starting with tonight’s game against the Nashville Predators.
The Wild finished the season’s first half on Saturday night in seventh place in the Western Conference. On Sunday, a 4-0 loss to the Dallas Stars dropped them out of the top eight. But as this insanely tight race moves forward in the second half, Minnesota could be back in the top eight tonight with a win over Nashville.
Since beating the Wild on New Year’s Eve, the Predators have extended their win streak to five games. On Saturday, Nashville squeezed out a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Sergei Kostitsyn scored the game winner in the third period, and David Legwand scored his third of the season in the first period. Pekka Rinne earned the win in a sparkling 42-save night.
Wild at Predators will be broadcast locally in high definition on KSTC-TV Channel 45 at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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It’s Super Tuesday in Nashville, so provided you can navigate through a couple inches of snow that has crippled the town, you can benefit from a pretty good deal. You can get two upper level tickets for $42, or two lower level tickets for $92. In addition, special concession stands will serve all items for $2.
With the exception of defenseman Shea Weber, who was also named to the All-Star Game, the Predators lack that game-changing superstar, and their best forwards – Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat and Matthew Lombardi – are all out indefinitely with injuries. But, as they’ve proven time after time over the last five years, you don’t need that to become a very good NHL team. It helps to have a coach as good as Barry Trotz, who has guided the Preds since their inception in 1999. Night after night, he formulates a game plan to play to Nashville’s strength of stingy defense and solid goaltending.
In the first meeting between the Wild and Predators, the Wild ran all over the rink and blitzed Nashville to the tune of 5-2. The Predators adjusted, and in the next meeting, responded with a 4-1 win in St. Paul to close out 2010. They haven’t lost since.
Before getting shut out on Sunday, Martin Havlat had been on another hot streak, scoring two goals and two assists on the club’s three-game trip out East. Havlat seems to prey on certain teams, most notably Calgary. But he’s had quite a bit of success against Nashville as well. He owns 35 points (13-22=35) in 26 career games against Nashville. Through two games, he’s got four points (2-2=4), including the Wild's most spectacular individual goal of the season.
Burns and Weber were both selected to participate in Canada’s Olympic training camp last summer. Of course, Burns had an injury-plagued season, while Weber flourished and helped Canada to a gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics. If Canada was picking another Olympic team this year, Burns would seemingly be a shoe-in. Instead, he earned a trip to the All-Star Game, where he may or may not be a teammate of Weber. Tonight, the two All-Star blueliners will be pitted against each other.
Antti Miettinen was on the Wild’s trip out East, but he never saw any action due to a lower-body contusion, and an illness. Miettinen did make the trip to Nashville, and it sounds as though he'll return, although Todd Richards said he hasn't finalized the lineup.
With Miettinen back, one forward would come out. It appears that will be Brad Staubitz, but that is subject to change: