Nashville Predators
Wild-Predators Preview
Nashville Predators

Wild-Predators Preview

Published Jan. 16, 2016 2:28 a.m. ET

It was at this stage of last season when the Minnesota Wild began to take their game to another level.

Again mired in a mid-January rut, a matchup with the scuffling Nashville Predators could provide another jump-start.

Both teams hope to break out of their slumps when they face off Saturday night, with the Predators saddled with a season-high five-game losing streak and the Wild hitting the road after three straight home defeats.

Minnesota (22-14-8) opens an important four-game trip off one-goal losses to New Jersey, Buffalo and Winnipeg, none of which is above 11th place in its respective conference. An offense that's had trouble getting consistent production other than from Zach Parise has totaled three goals in those games.


Parise has five goals over his last six, though none have come on an anemic power play that's 0 for 18 over the last nine games and 1 of 26 in the past 14.

"Even though we're not getting a lot (of chances), when you're not scoring on the power play, it affects guys," coach Mike Yeo said after Friday's 1-0 loss to the Jets. "It affects confidence, it affects pressure, and so I've got to do a better job with that. I know that's an understatement, but we've got to find a way to create something here."

The Wild can draw some inspiration from last season, when they went 28-9-3 from Jan. 15 on to move from last place in the Central Division into the Western Conference's first wild-card spot.

Scoring goals may not be much of a problem on Saturday, as Nashville (19-17-8) has allowed 21 over an 0-4-1 stretch. Pekka Rinne recorded a 3.90 goals-against average while starting four of those games and has permitted three or more in seven of his last eight outings.

The Predators do have something to build on as they return home from a rough four-game trip, scoring three times in the final 11 minutes of the third period to force overtime in Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss at Winnipeg.

''Obviously, being down 4-1 to come back like that on the road on a four-game losing streak is impressive,'' center Ryan Johansen said. ''We could have easily thrown in the towel and not have to battle and show the resilience that we did."

Nashville showed similar resolve in nearly overcoming another three-goal deficit in Tuesday's 3-2 loss at red-hot Chicago. It's allowed the first goal in seven of its last eight, a trend it won't want to continue against a Wild team that's 19-3-2 when scoring first.

Johansen's play has been another positive, as the playmaking center has six points in four games since being acquired from Columbus on Jan. 6. He had a goal and two assists and set up James Neal's game-tying score with 13.5 seconds left in regulation against the Jets.

Returning home also may provide a boost for both the Predators and Rinne, who owns a 2.10 GAA at Bridgestone Arena compared to a 3.13 mark on the road. Nashville is 12-6-3 on home ice and dealt the Wild a 3-2 defeat there on Dec. 19.

Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk has been strong on the road of late, though, having posted a 1.59 GAA over his last five starts. He's taken the loss in two of the Wild's three season meetings with Nashville but made 23 saves in a 4-0 home win on Nov. 21.

The Wild had won four straight in Nashville prior to last month's result.


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