fbpx
Skip to main content

Predators face tall task against surging Wild

Sportsnaut
Apr 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) is congratulated by right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) as he scores a goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators still reside in the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, but they are sputtering in their bid toward punching a ticket to the playoffs.

The Predators (44-29-5, 93 points) have a 3-4-1 record in their past eight games heading into Sunday’s clash against the visiting Minnesota Wild (50-21-7, 107 points).

Nashville’s struggles continued with a 6-2 loss to the defending Stanley Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, a game in which they managed only four shots on goal in the third period.

“We weren’t good enough, frankly, in several different areas,” said coach John Hynes, whose team has four games remaining. The Predators also face a pair of division champs in the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche before they visit the last-place Arizona Coyotes.

On a positive note, captain Roman Josi scored on Saturday to become only the ninth defenseman in league history — and first since 1994 — to record a 90-point season. He joined Paul Coffey, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Denis Potvin, Al MacInnis, Brian Leetch, Phil Housley and Gary Suter.

It’s a huge achievement, but he pushed it aside.

“We’ve got to have a playoff mindset,” Josi said. “We lost the game, but we play again (Sunday) and we can’t have this game carry over. It’s a new game, it’s a new day, so we’ve got to make sure we turn the page real quick. … After that we have to have a playoff mindset right now. It doesn’t matter what happened last game. The next game is the most important one.”

The Wild arrive in the Music City on a tear. A 6-3 win over the Seattle Kraken has Minnesota riding a four-game winning streak and a 7-0-1 run overall.

Minnesota is battling the St. Louis Blues for home-ice advantage when they meet in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Wild hold the edge right now, although the Blues will own the first tiebreaker — regulation wins — if it comes down to that.

The Wild, who have 50 wins in a season for the first time in franchise history, already have posted a franchise record 107 points.

Kirill Kaprizov became the first player in franchise history to reach the 100-point mark.

“Early in the season, there were a couple of games where I wasn’t producing and thank God the team was still winning and the rest of the team was playing well,” Kaprizov said. “For me, obviously it’s a huge accomplishment and I’m so thankful … but at the end of the day, we need to focus. We have playoffs coming up.”

More of a surprise is the breakout campaign by Kevin Fiala, who is coming off a career-best five-assist performance. He has recorded nine goals and 21 points during a nine-game streak. Fiala has posted four consecutive multi-point games and six in his past seven outings.

“If you’re a player and you think about the points stuff, the points are not coming,” said Fiala, who started his career with Nashville before being traded to Minnesota in February 2019. “I just come here, have fun with the guys, try to play the game like in the present, you know, instinct, and everything settles.”

The Wild will be without forward Mats Zuccarello due to a lower-body injury suffered against Seattle.

–Field Level Media