May 30, 2023

The Minnesota Wild are back on the road after a quick one-game homestand they would probably like to forget. A third-period comeback was completed by the San Jose Sharks when they handed the Wild a shootout loss on Nov. 13, continuing a streak of unexpectedly bad play at home this season. The good news is that despite a slow start and home ice issues, the Wild are only three points back of first place in the Central Division. A win tonight against their divisional rivals, the Nashville Predators, would be a significant boost.

Marc-Andre Fleury Minnesota Wild Robert Thomas St. Louis Blues
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Minnesota Wild makes a save on Robert Thomas of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Related: Wild’s Kaprizov & Shaw Lift Team, Steel Continues Struggles

The Predators may be second last in the Central, but they always seem to find that extra gear when facing the Wild. They are coming off of a big win against the New York Rangers that saw goaltender Juuse Saros regain a little bit of his magic after dropping two in a row where they allowed five goals. An offensively challenged Wild squad will be in for a long night if Saros is back on top of his game.

Wild Projected Lineup

While the return of Jordan Greenway was short-lived, and he will not return for tonight’s game, the Wild will benefit from having Brandon Duhaime rejoin the team, forcing Joseph Cramarossa back down to the Iowa Wild.

Kirill Kaprizov – Freddy Gaudreau – Mats Zuccarello
Matt Boldy – Joel Eriksson Ek – Marcus Foligno
Connor Dewar – Marco Rossi – Mason Shaw
Adam Beckman – Sam Steel – Brandon Duhaime

Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill – Calen Addison

Marc-Andre Fleury – Filip Gustavsson

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The fourth line will likely look a little different tonight, as Duhaime should take the wing vacated by Cramarossa. Although Duhaime has had an excellent start to the 2022-23 season, the top-nine look about as set as they have been all year, especially the trio of Dewar, Rossi, and Shaw. While the goals have not exactly been flowing, each line has been capable of creating opportunities and efficiently shutting down their opponents. With a bit more chemistry, most of those lines could be really dangerous.

Predators Projected Lineup

The Predators have talent throughout their lines, especially on left defense, but have been unable to put it all together this season.

Filip Forsberg – Juuso Parssinen – Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter – Ryan Johansen – Matt Duchene
Cole Smith – Mark Jankowski – Tanner Jeannot
Eeli Tolvanen – Colton Sissons – Michael McCarron

Roman Josi – Dante Fabbro
Mattias Ekholm – Alexandre Carrier
Ryan McDonagh – Jeremy Lauzon

Juuse Saros – Kevin Lankinen

Their win over the Rangers may have been enough to warrant another look at the same lineup without alterations; however, Yakov Trenin, who was day-to-day with a lower-body injury, will be a game-time decision. A notable presence is rookie Juuso Parssinen, acting as the first-line center, as he netted his first NHL goal against New York.

Key Players to Watch

Minnesota Wild – Marc Andre Fleury

A terrible start to the season had Wild fans contemplating if the offseason trade that sent Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators was a mistake. However, Fleury has stepped up to be one of the most important players on the roster. A good goaltender will keep teams in games even when they have been playing horribly, and lately, Fleury has been doing just that with a 5-2-0 record, a .939 save percentage, and a 1.70 goals-against average (including a shutout) in his last seven starts.

“He’s just so appreciative when he comes to the bench at timeouts. [Thanking] everybody, talking to the [defense] about what they did. He’s a leader. Obviously doesn’t wear a ‘C’ or an ‘A’, but he’s certainly a leader on our hockey club.”

– Dean Evason via @mnwild on Twitter

The veteran goaltender knows what it takes to win in the NHL, and his experience will be crucial in helping the Wild reclaim the magic that they had in 2021-22. His positive attitude and calm demeanor have already positioned him as one of the team leaders, supporting the young players and guiding the team through their early struggles not only on the ice but also in the locker room. If he can dominate long enough for Minnesota to find their offensive touch, it shouldn’t be long before the wins start rolling in.

Nashville Predators – Filip Forsberg

After a career-best 84 points (42 goals, 42 assists) in only 69 games in the 2021-22 season, there were rumblings that the Predators may lose Forsberg as a free agent; however, they struck a deal to the tune of eight years and $68 million. The team’s star offensive talent is vital to their push for playoff contention, along with their elite defenseman Roman Josi and high-end starting goaltender Juuse Saros.

Filip Forsberg Nashville Predators
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Forsberg has been lighting it up on the first line as a point-per-game player with 15 points (five goals and 10 assists) and has been one of their most consistent bright spots after an otherwise drab start to the season. As a team that finished the 2021-22 season with 97 points in a wild-card position, Nashville will need Forsberg to continue putting up some big numbers if they plan on making another visit to the postseason in 2022-23.

Tonight’s match-up can be found on Bally Sports North and KFAN 100.3 FM starting at 7:00 PM CT.

*Player statistics collected from Naturalstattrick.comNashville Predators lines from @emma_lingan on Twitter, and Minnesota Wild lines from @Russohockey on Twitter.

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