Neither the Nashville Predators nor the Minnesota Wild have been particularly explosive on offense and both have struggled on the power play.
Nashville has compensated with the league’s best goaltending to put themselves among the West’s top teams, however, while Minnesota’s more mediocre play in net has led to inconsistent results.
The Predators look for a fourth win in five games Saturday night when they visit Minnesota.
Nashville (20-8-2), fourth in the West with 42 points, ranks in the league’s middle third with 2.6 goals per game and near the bottom with an 8.1 shooting percentage.
Pekka Rinne leads the league with a 1.76 goals-against average and 20 wins while starting all but three games, all losses. He had a difficult 2013-14, going 10-10-3 with a 2.77 GAA while being limited to 24 games due to a hip infection.
Rinne has been particularly impressive over his last five games with a 1.19 GAA and two shutouts. He made 33 saves in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over Boston, stopping all three attempts in the tiebreaker.
"He was phenomenal tonight," coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne, who is 6-2-1 with a 1.53 GAA in his last nine starts versus Minnesota. "There were so many good saves and so many big saves, timely saves when we needed it. He’s done tonight what he’s been doing all year, which is giving us an opportunity to win hockey games."
Nashville owns the league’s second-worst power play, scoring on 11.5 percent of its chances. However, the unit has shown some life lately with power-play goals in two of the last three games following an eight-game drought without one.
"We’ve got to keep shooting," said Mike Fisher, who scored a power-play goal in the second period. "Guys did a good job of getting pucks through. We’ve got to get hungry and get some more."
The Predators, who fell behind 1-0 in the second period, improved to 9-6-1 when failing to score first after going 11-29-6 in those situations in 2013-14.
Minnesota (16-12-2), 10th in the West and eight points back of Nashville, has dropped four of six after Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime home loss to Boston.
"We’ve got to stop losing," said Zach Parise, who leads the team with 23 points but has one in his last four games.
Parise has four goals and two assists in his last five meetings with Nashville.
The Wild average 2.8 goals and own a 12.4 power-play percentage but have received middle-of-the-road goaltending with a 2.57 GAA. Both Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper have battled stomach illnesses lately, posting 3.28 and 3.96 GAAs, respectively, during the team’s 2-3-1 stretch.
Offensively, Minnesota has had little problem generating shots but has often failed to capitalize on its chances. The Wild outshot the Bruins 37-25, including a 29-12 margin over the final two periods. They’ve outshot or matched their opponents’ shot total in 12 of 14 losses.
"If it wasn’t enough, we’re better than that. Let’s be even better next game," coach Mike Yeo said. "We did a lot of good things. We hit three posts. We made a play to tie up the game. But we can still do a little bit more, and that has to be our mindset."