Wild-Predators Preview

Not even the return of captain and leading scorer Mikko Koivu

could help the Minnesota Wild end their losing streak.

If the Nashville Predators are going to break out of their brief

funk, they’ll have to do it without their own leader.

The Wild will look to snap a seven-game skid Wednesday night

while the Predators try again to adapt to life without star

defenseman Shea Weber.

Nashville announced Tuesday that Weber, the team leader with 21

assists and 29 points, is the latest victim of the NHL’s growing

concussion problem. He was injured in a 6-3 loss at Dallas on

Friday.

The Predators (18-14-4) found out the impact of the Norris

Trophy finalist’s absence Monday, when their five-game home winning

streak ended with a 4-1 loss to Detroit – their third defeat in

four games overall.

“I think there was some apprehension (without Weber),” coach

Barry Trotz said. “We had a very good Detroit team coming in here

and you don’t know who is going to respond to matchups.

“I thought we responded pretty well.”

The Predators did a nice job of holding the Red Wings to 22

shots, and defenseman Ryan Ellis had a solid NHL debut by logging

18:13 of ice time, but the club now faces an indefinite period

without its captain.

The loss of Weber, who has five goals and eight assists on the

power play, leaves a huge hole in a unit that went 0 for 5 without

him Monday after converting 4 of 8 in the previous two games.

Outscored 12-3 while Koivu was sidelined four games with a leg

injury, Minnesota (20-12-5) continued its free fall Monday with a

4-2 loss to Colorado.

Koivu set up a goal in his return – he has a point in seven

straight and leads the team with 29 – but the Wild’s inability to

score has become a major concern as they have dropped one point

back of Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead.

Minnesota has scored nine total goals during its skid after

averaging 3.4 during a 7-0-0 surge that preceded it. It’s still

uncertain when Devin Setoguchi (ankle), Casey Wellman (wrist) and

Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion symptoms) will get back on

the ice.

The Wild took another hit Monday when defenseman Jared Spurgeon

– second on the team with seven power-play assists – was checked

face-first into the boards by Cody McLeod. Spurgeon will not play

Wednesday due to a lower-body injury.

That is bad news for a power-play unit that has converted just 2

of 22 chances during the skid.

First-year coach Mike Yeo is not panicking as his club tries to

avoid its first eight-game skid since an 0-7-1 stretch March

10-26.

“This is still part of our process,” he said. “We passed the

test earlier about how we would do if we were having success. But

where we clearly have to improve is when things are not going well,

how does that affect you?”

The Predators figure to have Pekka Rinne in net considering his

stellar history against the Wild at home. Rinne, who made 27 saves

in a 3-2 loss in St. Paul on Nov. 23, has stopped 93 of 94 shots

while winning all four career home starts – three shutouts – versus

Minnesota.

The Wild have been outscored 14-1 while losing three straight in

Nashville.