The Nashville Predators' spot in the postseason is secure, but their recent spotty play means they won't want to take their final regular-season games lightly.
The Minnesota Wild are out of contention, but relishing their role as a spoiler.
Possibly needing to win its final three games for a chance at home-ice advantage in the first round, Nashville on Tuesday night will host a Minnesota club in the midst of its longest winning streak in nearly four months.
The Predators (45-26-8) have dropped four of seven and six of nine, including a 5-4 home defeat to Chicago on Saturday. With 98 points, they are tied with the Blackhawks for fifth in the Western Conference with a game in hand. Detroit - which like Nashville has three games remaining - is in fourth place with 99 points.
That fourth spot carries with it home ice in the first round. The Predators are 24-10-5 at Bridgestone Arena, compared with a 21-16-3 road mark. The Red Wings and Blackhawks may want the No. 4 seed even worse, as both of those clubs have losing records away from home.
"If you win tonight, you have a little bit of breathing room," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said after Saturday's loss. "They forced us to win all three of our games now ... So it's still in our control in terms of the 4 or 5 seed. What's not in our control now is home-ice advantage."
The Blackhawks had a chance to pass the Predators in the standings Sunday, but the Wild (34-35-10) did Trotz's club a minor favor by winning 5-4 in a shootout at Chicago.
Devin Setoguchi scored in the first period and again in the tiebreaker to help Minnesota win its third straight - its longest streak since a season-best seven-game run Nov. 28-Dec. 10.
"These games are important for a lot of teams," Setoguchi said. "These games are about pride and building toward next season. People might think, 'They're out of it,' but it's big for our club to finish strong and do things the right way instead of taking a vacation here."
Setoguchi, who also had two assists against the Blackhawks, missed the Wild's other visit to Nashville this season - a 2-1 shootout loss Dec. 28 - due to a lower-body injury that sidelined him for 12 games.
"That might be (Setoguchi's) best game that he's played in a Minnesota Wild jersey, to be honest with you, right from the start," coach Mike Yeo said Sunday. "I think that he's really elevated his game, and it's obviously been a trying season for him, but it's really encouraging to see him going the way he's going right now."
Nashville rallied from a 4-0 deficit to tie the Blackhawks on Saturday, but lost after Brent Seabrook beat Pekka Rinne at 8:19 of the third period. A workhorse whose 71 starts are tied with Anaheim's Jonas Hiller for the league lead, Rinne could be showing signs of late-season wear. He has allowed three goals or more in six of his last 10 starts, after doing so six times in his previous 26 outings.
Rinne is 8-3-1 with a 2.20 lifetime goals-against average versus Minnesota.
The Predators have won four consecutive home meetings with the Wild since a 5-3 defeat Dec. 5, 2009.
- Nashville Predators
- Minnesota Wild
- The Blackhawks