While the Nashville Predators have played well behind a productive offense through the first three weeks of the season, the Minnesota Wild might have finally overcome their slow start.
The Wild eye a third consecutive victory while also looking to end their recent struggles against the host Predators on Thursday night.
Starting with a sixth consecutive loss to Nashville to open this season, Minnesota went 1-6-0 before winning back-to-back games against Montreal and Edmonton. After totaling 14 goals through the first seven games, the Wild have scored seven in the last two.
Eric Staal recorded his first two goals of 2019-20, and Brad Hunt added his team-leading fourth of the season as Minnesota did all its scoring in the first period of Tuesday’s 3-0 home victory over Edmonton. Staal, who has 419 career goals, had never gone more than his first five games without one.
“Felt good to get that (first) one, and it’s amazing what a little confidence will do,” Staal, who broke into the NHL with Carolina in 2003-04, told the Wild’s official website.
“It was a big win by our guys. … We competed hard, and we did a great job limiting their big players and frustrating (them). We’ll take it and keep building from here.”
The Wild must do so minus No. 1 netminder Devan Dubnyk, who left Tuesday’s game during the second period following a collision. According to coach Bruce Boudreau, Dubnyk will miss the contest and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Alex Stalock, who came on to make 16 saves to complete the shutout Tuesday, is 1-1-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average this season, but he is 0-4-1 with a 2.80 GAA in five career appearances versus Nashville.
Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker each had a goal as Minnesota’s slide against the Predators was extended to 0-3-3 with that 5-2 road loss on Oct. 3. The Wild are 0-4-2 at Nashville since last winning there in Dec. 27, 2016.
Filip Forsberg and Ryan Ellis each had a goal with an assist, and Matt Duchene recorded three assists in his Predators debut during the opening win over the Wild. Forsberg, tied for the team lead with five goals, could possibly return Thursday after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury.
Nashville hardly missed him while avoiding a third straight defeat with Tuesday’s 6-1 home win over Anaheim. Viktor Arvidsson scored twice for the Predators, who are 5-3-1 on the season and lead the Western Conference with 38 non-shootout goals. Off to the best offensive start in club history, Nashville has registered at least five goals five times already this season.
“It’s a real confidence boost for the team,” goaltender Pekka Rinne, who made 26 saves on Tuesday to improve 5-0-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average, told the Predators’ official website of the offensive production. “(On Tuesday), we were smart and we generated enough chances to score goals.”
Rinne stopped 22 shots versus Minnesota earlier this month and owns a 2.16 goals-against average while winning four straight in this series. Winless in three starts this season, backup Juuse Saros has also thrived against the Wild, going 3-0-0 with an 0.65 goals-against average for his career.
Ellis, who has nine assists over the last five games, has three points in his last two home games versus Minnesota. Staal, meanwhile, is goalless in five straight against the Predators.
–Field Level Media