Game #21: Minnesota Wild vs Nashville Predators, Wednesday Novermber 23, 2011 at 7:00pm (CST), Xcel Energy Center [GAME PREVIEW]

Record Pts Div. Rank G/G GA/G PP% PK%
Minnesota Wild (12-5-3) 27 1st NW 2.20 (28) 1.95 (1) 13.5% (25)

83.8% (12)

Nashville Predators
(10-6-4) 24 2nd Central 2.75 (15) 2.65 (14) 16.4% (17) 84.3% (11)

 

Minnesota Wild
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #9 Mikko Koivu 3 10 13
2. #15 Dany Heatley 5 7 12
3. #7 Matt Cullen 8 3 11
4. #10 Devin Setoguchi 6 4 10
5. #96 Pierre-Marc Bouchard 1 9 10
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #22 Cal Clutterbuck 32
2. #16 Brad Staubitz 31
3. #25 Nick Johnson 19
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (7-4-2) 1.97 .935
2. #37 Josh Harding (5-1-1) 1.79 .945
Nashville Predators
Top 5 Scorers: G A Pts
1. #15 Craig Smith 7 8 15
2. #11 David Legwand 5 10 15
3. #6 Shea Weber 3 12 15
4. #20 Ryan Suter 4 10 14
5. #27 Patric Hornqvist 7 4 11
Top 3 Penalty Minutes: PIM
1. #23 Brian McGrattan 34
2. #22 Jordin Tootoo 26
3. #24 Matt Halischuk 23
 
Goaltenders: GAA SV%
1. #35 Pekka Rinne (10-5-4) 2.35 .928
2. #39 Anders Lindback (0-1-0) 3.48 .890


I am apprehensive. 

In seasons past, there was absolutely nothing worse for the Minnesota Wild than a break in action lasting more than two nights.  Right now, the Wild haven’t played a game now since Saturday night.  For most teams, a nice break gives players time to rest up and get their energy back.  For Minnesota, it has often been the complete opposite.  A team that one would expect to come out well-rested and ready to go, usually has come out sluggish, and looking worn out as if they had just played six games in eight nights on the road.  I also sometimes get nervous about the games just before the Thanksgiving holiday.  I don’t know if players (regardless of nationality) already have their minds on turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, but there have been times where the result has not been good.  Hopefully, they will play like they normally do on the Black Friday game.

However, there is a new boss in town.  When we have thought that this team is down for the count, somehow bench boss, Mike Yeo is able to rally his troops and by some miracle get the win.  Even better, we’ve been able to get the all-important scoring from struggling captain, Mikko Koivu.  Yes, I wish Koivu had more than his measly three goals, but I am hopeful that Saturday’s game against St. Louis awoke the sleeping giant inside him.  He can be much more than we’ve seen this season, and it would be nice to see if his success rubs off on teammates Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.  Yes, it’s been great to see both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding keep the team in the game with fantastic goaltending, but I have a feeling they would like to see more goals for their team in order to give them a little more wiggle room, especially if they’re having an off night.

The even more impressive story about this year’s Minnesota Wild has been the contributions of Minnesota’s young players, especially those called up from Houston due to injuries.  Most of those call-ups have been for injured defensemen.  Those players clearly benefited spending a year with Yeo in Houston last season, especially a trip to the Calder Cup Finals.  While most will wonder how a team will react to a new head coach, especially when called up, it’s clear that these young players know exactly what their head coach wants, and they tend to fit in seamlessly.  As far as defensemen go, Wild fans should breathe a small sigh of relief knowing that Marco Scandella is slated to make his return to action against Nashville.  I know I’m glad to hear that.  It also seems that Greg Zanon should be making his return this weekend.  Zanon is okay, but I know I’m more excited about Scandella’s return.

Minnesota will need to come out and play their game (although hopefully with more offense) if they’d like to continue to hold on to the number one spot in the entire league.  I know that I never expected that feat at any point this season.  It’s great to see, and it’s proof that this group of players has truly become a team.  They have clawed and fought their way to that coveted spot, and they will need to continue to claw and fight to keep that spot.  I am a realist though, and I highly doubt that they’ll be able to maintain that spot for long (although I wouldn’t mind if they’d hold onto it for a while).  At this point, this could seriously be a team that could make the playoffs.  And after the playoff appearance drought we’ve endured in recent years, I’ll take a playoff berth at the end of the regular season over holding the number one spot for a month and not making the playoffs at all.  And who knows, if we continue to play well, perhaps the National Hockey League will finally take notice.

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