Wild at Predators preview: Four-point swing at stake


at Nashville Predators, Bridgestone Arena, 7 p.m. Thursday

TV; radio: BSN; 100.3 FM

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Pregame reading: They're all big games during the last third of the season, but the Wild's next two are more important than most

Sarah McLellan's analysis:

Opening bell: Biggest game of the Wild's season to date? Sure feels like it. The Predators (33-25-2) are cruising, winning six in a row to create quite the buffer between them and the rest of their competition for a wild-card seed in the Western Conference. The Wild (28-25-6) are six points back of Nashville with only one game in hand. If they lose in regulation, dropping eight points back would be a major blow to their playoff hopes.

Watch him: Former Wild F Gustav Nyquist is having a terrific season with the Predators. The Wild acquired an injured Nyquist from Columbus last season before the trade deadline and once he healed up, Nyquist tied for the team lead in scoring in the playoffs after tallying five assists. With Nashville, Nyquist rediscovered that productivity: he has 16 goals and 33 assists and is on a three-game goal streak.

Injuries: Wild D Zach Bogosian (upper body), LW Marcus Foligno (lower body), RW Pat Maroon (back) and D Jared Spurgeon (hip/back).

Forecast: Talk about an important — and intriguing — matchup. Nashville looks unstoppable right now. The Predators have won by at least two goals in each of their victories during their streak, and by three goals three times. They were flattened 6-1 by the Wild in Nashville in these teams' first meeting of the season, but the Predators won the rematch at Xcel Energy Center and have played even better since. Still, these points are more critical to the Wild, who lost on Tuesday to Carolina because their execution and attention to detail were off. They'll need both areas to be sharper against Nashville to have a chance at ending the surge.

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