Wild face Predators, looking to make it 11 straight (Dec 27, 2016)
Most of the Nashville Predators' season has been spent searching unsuccessfully for the consistency every good team requires.
If they need to see what it looks like, a peek at the other bench Tuesday night should provide the answer.
The Minnesota Wild will bring a franchise-record 10-game winning streak to Bridgestone Arena for their second meeting with Nashville in 12 days. The first matchup was Minnesota's sixth win in that stretch, a 5-2 verdict on Dec. 15, which saw Devan Dubnyk record 34 saves and protect a one-goal lead for most of the third period until the Wild bagged a pair of empty-netters in the final minute.
At 21-8-4, Minnesota owns the Western Conference's second-best record, just three points back of Central Division rival Chicago. But players and coach Bruce Boudreau aren't taking a big-picture look at things just yet.
"You don't think about it," said center Charlie Coyle, whose four-point game keyed Friday night's 7-4 triumph at the New York Rangers. "You just keep playing until the next one. No one is thinking about the record or whatever. We just play with hopes of coming ready to play and everyone's doing their part right now."
A look at the stats from Friday night bears that out. Seven different players scored goals, six of them delivered multiple points and backup goalie Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 of 35 shots as the durable Dubnyk got a rare night off.
"I could tell in the third period they had nothing left," Boudreau said after the game, "but I'm proud of the guys for sticking to doing what they can do to preserve and get the 10th win."
Meanwhile, the Predators (15-13-5) were writing another unwanted chapter in their season-long book on consistent inconsistency. After notching road wins over Philadelphia and New Jersey, they came back home Thursday night and ate a 4-0 loss to Los Angeles.
After giving up a fluky goal in the first 6 1/2 minutes, Nashville went into chase mode for the night's remainder against Peter Budaj and the Kings, who played a patient road game and broke it open with three third period goals.
It was the fifth loss in seven December home games for the Predators, who were 8-1-1 at home in October and November.
"Win two, lose two, win two, lose one, win one, lose three -- you're going nowhere in mud really quick," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "We've got to string something together."
This would be a really good week for the Predators to string together some wins. All three games are against division opponents, as they host Chicago Thursday night and take a trip to St. Louis Friday night.
Nashville is hopeful of getting P.K. Subban (upper-body injury) back into the lineup after a four-game absence. Subban leads the team's defense corps in goals with seven and is second among the D-men with 17 points, two behind Roman Josi.
The Wild might be without a pair of forwards, as Erik Haula is battling a lower-body injury and Zach Parise is dealing with an illness. Haula will fly with the team to Nashville Tuesday morning, but it isn't known if Parise will.