After the most tumultuous two days in recent Nashville Predator history, the team will search out a way to play "Predator hockey" tonight against the slumping Minnesota Wild and carve out a win to attempt to end a two game losing streak.
The Preds have had an extra day to prepare for playing without Captain Shea Weber, who was ruled out of tonight's contest and is considered "day to day" with a concussion. Along with Kevin Klein's flu-like symptoms, the team was forced to play with three rookies on defense in Monday's 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
The three rookies performed admirably in the contest and were actually some of better players on the ice against the Wings. Ryan Ellis played well in his NHL debut. Roman Josi stepped up to first pair duties, and Jon Blum scored the Preds' only goal in one of his better recent performances.
What appeared to be missing against the Wings was the team's swagger that Weber gave them on special teams as well as in five on five play. The Preds entered Monday's game ranked second in the NHL on the power play and went 0-5 on the man advantage. They out-shot Detroit 32-22 but only managed the single goal.
Without Weber's gritty determination, presence on the ice, and will to win, the Wings appeared more patient and were able to withstand the Preds' attack.
Nashville is hoping for better results against the Wild who have lost seven games in a row and fell out of first place in the Northwest Division on Monday night with a 4-2 loss to the Avalanche.
Nashville has played well recently, winning six out of seven before losing the last two games. They remain in second place in the league on the man-advantage (21.6%) and were in the top half on the penalty kill until the recent stumble against Columbus last week.
The Predators have long been known for their own special brand of being able to rise to the occasion and playing a twenty-man game regardless of who is able to suit up for a given game. They have previously stated that it takes a "core" of close to thirty players during a season and have had the depth to plug and play role players to fill in when injuries arise.
Tonight's game at Bridgestone Arena will be one of those "given" games when the system, a.k.a. "The Predator Way," will have the opportunity to rise to the occasion and win a game that may seem improbable on the surface.
Goalies have not been announced by either team so any combination is possible. The Predators have started Pekka Rinne (16-10-4, 2.70, .916) in 32 of 36 games but he has allowed 12 goals in his last three games after winning NHL weekly second star honors earlier this month. Anders Lindback (2-4-0, 2.75, .893) could be a surprise starter.
The Wild have done well using the tandem of Niklas Backstrom (11-9-4, 2.31, .925) and Josh Harding (7-3-1, 2.13, .932) this season. Backstrom has lost five in a row and Harding has not won since December 4. Rookie Matt Hackett, (2-0-0, 1.01, .974) who is also on the roster, won two games in early December.
In summary, tonight's game should be a battle between two teams desperate for a win and plenty on the line as the Wild hope to turn things around and the Predators want to find the "Predator way" once again.
For other Predator previews check out Ryan Porth, Amanda DiPaolo, Robby Stanley, and Predators.com.
For previews and information from Minnesota, check out Wild.com, Minnesota Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, View From the Lighthouse, and Hockey Wilderness.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass