BREAKING NEWS: Nik Backstrom will not be available tonight for personal reasons. Josh Harding will start. Matt Hackett has been recalled from Houston. And Paul Deutsch has been signed to an amateur tryout contract as the emergency goaltender. Read more here.
The Minnesota Wild has had three full days to bask in the glow of being the top team in the National Hockey League. Tonight, it’s time to work on keeping that title when the Nashville Predators come to town for the first time this season. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Wild can give thanks to many for being in the position the club is in as of today. There’s been timely and clutch goals, suffocating defense from a cast of youngsters, but most importantly, brilliant goaltending. The Wild boasts an NHL-best 1.90 goals against average with both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding sporting a GAA under 2.00.
It was Harding that earned the Wild’s fourth straight win on Saturday in a 3-2 shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues. He stopped 25 shots in regulation and overtime, allowing for Mikko Koivu’s heroics. Koivu scored both Wild goals, and then buried another in the shootout. Matt Cullen scored the eventual shootout winner.
Expect the Predators to be an angry bunch after suffering a 6-2 beatdown at home by the Edmonton Oilers last night. Jordin Tootoo and Jonathon Blum both scored goals, but not until the Oilers had the game well in hand. Pekka Rinne gave up three goals in the first period before being pulled.
Wild vs. Predators will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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You don’t have to wait to get mauled at a shopping center on Friday to pick up the gift on everybody’s Christmas list – the 2011-2012 Minnesota Wild Team Yearbook. The books are fresh off the press and will be available for purchase tonight at the Hockey Lodge.
Predators head coach Barry Trotz blamed last night’s thumping on “too many turnovers” and “playing a light, soft game.” That is certainly not the hallmark of a Trotz-coached team, which typically plays a hard-nosed, pressuring style.
But the Predators are most known for great goaltending provided by Rinne, and stellar defense from the likes of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Those two blueliners have combined for 29 points and seven goals thus far this season.
From early on in Saturday’s game, it was apparent that Koivu was going to have a big night. The way he was skating and playing so physical, it was a matter of time before he made something happen. He pretty much took the game over in scoring those two goals, giving him three points over the last two contests.
With the top spot in the NHL, the Wild won’t be surprising anybody anymore. Teams will be ready, and that will provide a test for Minnesota as it tries to keep improving. There aren’t many teams that can provide a better test than Nashville. The Preds were considered a lock for the postseason and they’ll obviously be looking to quickly erase the memory of last night.
The Wild currently have four injured defensemen, but at least three of them are closing in on a return to the lineup. One of them will be in for sure as Marco Scandella, who has been enjoying a breakout season, returns after missing four games with a concussion.
The lines will stay the same as they were on Saturday:
“Is Nashville going to come in here and change their game? I’m sure that they’re not. And that’s what we’re trying to establish here is our own identity and the way that we want to play the game. It shouldn’t change night in and night out."
- Mike Yeo on whether he will change the game plan against a defensive-minded team like Nashville
D Jack Hillen is a native of Minnetonka and won a 2002 state high school championship with the Academy of Holy Angels.
The Wild will have to reverse a trend to extend its winning streak to five tonight. The last six times the team has played a home game the night before Thanksgiving, it has been on the losing end, going 0-5-1.