The Nashville Predators (33-24-10) return to the Bridgestone Arena tonight to begin a five game homestand against the Minnesota Wild (35-25-7) at 7 p.m. Central.
The game will be a battle for ninth place in the Western Conference as the Wild are sitting at 77 points while the Preds are at 76. This will be the final meeting between the two teams this season.
The Predators have won two of three games from Minnesota this season. On January 11, the Preds won 5-1 in Nashville which followed 4-1 win over the Wild in Minnesota on New Year's Eve. They also met in Minnesota on Black Friday which resulted in a really ugly 5-2 Predator loss.
The Predators struggled on the just completed road trip going 1-1-2 to pick up four points in four games. Since the All-Star break, the team has gone 6-7-4.
The Wild are playing the front end of back to back games as they will head to Dallas after tonight's game. They are 10-6-2 since the break as they have played themselves into contention for a playoff seed.
Pekka Rinne (23-19-8, 2.12, .929) will be in net for the Preds as they try to guard against a post road trip let down as we have seen before. Barry Trotz has often said that the first game back is like an extension of the road trip in many ways.
The Wild could go with either Niklas Backstrom (21-16-4, 2.35, .925) or Jose Theodore (12-8-3, 2.58, .921) since each will play a game in their two game set.
Starting tonight, the schedule tilts in the Predators favor with 12 of the last 15 being at home. Nashville leads the league in fewest home goals allowed with 60 in 29 games, 15 fewer than second place Boston. The Predators probably still need 20-22 out of the last 30 available to be assured of a playoff berth.
Other previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Predatorial, Chris Burton, HNIN, The Tennessean, and Predators.com.
Previews from the Wild come from the Minnesota Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, View From the Lighthouse, and Hockey Wilderness.
In Preds Nation...
Congrats to Shea Weber and Blake Geoffrion who won awards at the Nashville Sports Council Awards last light.
Amanda DiPaolo spoke with several Predators about what the upcoming homestand means.
Josh Cooper gives his thoughts on the bubble teams in the Western Conference.
David Boclair breaks down each of the Predators final 15 games.
Mark Willoughby discusses the insanity of NHL discipline.
Thanks to @yovalks for giving us a heads up on a new CBC Bio on Mike Fisher.
Chris Burton looks at the Predators' season-long injury situation.
Phillip at HNIN asks "What's the Problem?" with the Predators.
Admirals Short Shifts looks at the final month for Milwaukee.
Interesting statistic from @CrazyCharlie560: Pete Weber will be doing Predators broadcast #1000 next Tues 3/15 Vs The LA Kings.... how fitting! He is one of the best people EVER!!
Around the NHL...
There was so much talk yesterday about the Chara-Pacioretty hit that it was hard to absorb. Elliotte Friedman had one of the better perspectives in that the game itself is actually dangerous. Puck Daddy has a good synopsis with the history and videos. Always the voice of reason, Adrian Dater throws out his two cents and then does a follow-up.
Here is the official statement from the NHL on the Chara-Pacioretty hit as well as the injury report.
Air Canada has gotten into the fray, threatening the league with possible pulled sponsorships if the head shot situation doesn't improve.
Our friend, Travis Hair has the latest on the Coyotes situation and how it differs from other recent situations where teams were force to relocate.
Shane Doan joined Gary Bettman in bashing the Goldwater Institute yesterday.
Dan Bylsma received a three year contract extension yesterday from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mike Milbury says Sidney Crosby is running out of time for a return this season. I'd say that is an accurate statement.
Is it really deja vu all over again for Avalanche fans. They had a surprise season last year tucked in between two miserable finishes.
The OGA folks take a look at several options for realignment should Phoenix end up moving to Winnipeg which was out of the question a month ago.
It should be an odd show on Gary Bettman's NHL hour since he will have a couple of US senators on as guests.
The Carolina Hurricanes have frozen season ticket prices for next year. I am very pleased that the Predators offered a new 2/20 that actually appears to be a slight reduction in per ticket cost for me.
Odds and Ends...
Livestrong has cut a naming rights deal with the new stadium in Kansas City that will pay money back to the foundation.
Here's a great time-waster. You can play Rock-Paper-Scissors against the New York Times computer.
There is a new Foursquare update that adds plenty of new features for businesses and users.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass