After opening with impressive back-to-back wins at Carolina and Washington, the Minnesota Wild continue their four-game road trip Tuesday night with a key Central Division battle against the Nashville Predators.
Minnesota (43-20-5, 91 points), second in the Central behind Colorado, will bring a 10-game point streak into the contest, its second double-digit point streak of the season.
The Wild, who finish the trip on Friday at third-place St. Louis, are nine points ahead of the fourth-place Predators (39-25-4, 82 points), who currently hold the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
If Minnesota can pick up wins over Nashville and the Blues, two potential first-round playoff opponents, it would put Dean Evason’s squad in the driver’s seat for second place and home-ice advantage for the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Evason didn’t want to touch that topic, however, when it was brought up following Sunday night’s 5-1 victory over the Capitals.
“We’ll get ready for the next one,” Evason said. “We’ve liked how we’ve played. There’s a lot of things that we can reinforce. But we’ve obviously got a great team coming up. We’ll work on that first.”
“Not that these two (wins) weren’t as big, but obviously, against a division rivalry like that, it’s huge,” said forward Jordan Greenway, who had a career-high three assists in Sunday’s win. “We know what we’re up against, how much these games mean for us, and we got to be ready for them.”
Forward Marcus Foligno, who scored his 20th goal of the season and also had an assist, agreed.
“I think Nashville is going to be a great team and something that we’re a little bit of a different hockey team since the last time that we played them,” Foligno said.
That was on March 13 in Saint Paul, Minn., when the Predators, behind two goals and two assists by defenseman Roman Josi and two goals an assist by Filip Forsberg, handed the Wild a 6-2 drubbing. Minnesota began its current 10-game point streak three days later.
“I think we’re all excited about Tuesday’s game,” Foligno said. “We’re not looking ahead further to St. Louis. We want to go into Nashville and do what we’ve done the past two nights. We want to keep perfecting our game and molding it and making sure it’s ready for whoever we play in round one.”
Nashville will be well rested, idle since a 4-3 loss at Buffalo on Friday night.
“We’ve got to regroup a little bit mentally and physically and have a retool,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “It’s not often that you get three days in between games. You’ve got to use them wisely; get the energy up a little bit with our guys with some recovery but also get some work in where we feel like we can get some areas of our game improved.”
The Predators were outshot 35-25 by the Sabres.
“We’ve got to get some rest and get back at it,” Forsberg said. “There’s things we could have done better (Friday night). Overall, we definitely look forward to play the next game against Minnesota. It’s a big game and we’ll be better.”
–Field Level Media