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  • 3/27 PREGAME: Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators

    Heather Rule

    Only seven regular-season games left on the schedule for the Minnesota Wild, and five of them are on the road. After beating the Nashville Predators 4-1 on home ice on Saturday, the Wild (42-24-9) face the defending Western Conference champs in Smashville on Tuesday night.


    It marks the fifth and final matchup of the season between the two clubs, with the Wild winning three of the first four. All the wins for the Wild came in St. Paul. The last time they met in Nashville, the Predators shut out the Wild 3-0 on Dec. 30.


    The Wild are 17-18-1 on the road this season and 7-3-0 in their last 10 games away from St. Paul. Their offense has been productive in those games with at least three goals in eight of those 10 games.


    The biggest news coming into this game is the Wild signed forward and Boston University product Jordan Greenway to an entry-level contract on Monday. In return, Zack Mitchell was sent back to Iowa. Greenway is set for his NHL debut in Nashville, skating on a line with the oldest player in the league, Matt Cullen, and Charlie Coyle. Greenway would be the 80th player to make an NHL debut in a Wild sweater.


    On Tuesday, Cullen, 41, was named as a Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee. The trophy is presented to the player who best demonstrates perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey each year. He has 10 goals and 11 assists with a 50.4 faceoff win percentage in 73 games this season. He also started the Cullen Children’s Foundation in 2005, which has donated more than $3 million in support of children’s healthcare needs.


    The Wild continue to hold the third spot in the Central Division. Both Winnipeg, in the second spot with 102 points, and Nashville (107 points), the division leader, have clinched playoff spots. Los Angeles and Colorado are in the wild card spots with 91 and 90 points, just behind the Wild’s 93 points. St. Louis is right in the mix, too, with a five-game winning streak and a total of 89 points.


    Back to the back-to-back weekend for the Wild, they’re coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to Boston, their final Eastern Conference foe this season (unless they find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final). Mikko Koivu scored the lone goal for the Wild, while goaltender Alex Stalock took the loss in net.


    Mikael Granlund, in a 12-game goal drought, leads the Wild this season with three goals and three assists against Nashville. He could really use some of that magic to get back on track offensively Tuesday night. Koivu has 41 points in 46 career games against Nashville. Eric Staal is still in search of goal No. 40 this season.


    The Predators (48-16-11) may hold command of the division, though recently they’ve slid with three straight losses for the first time since December. Viktor Arvidsson leads the Predators with 58 points (28-30—58), followed by left winger Filip Forsberg with 55 points (21-34—55). Defenseman P.K. Subban followed with a team-high 39 assists and has 54 points for the season.


    Pekka Rinne is a 40-game winner with a 40-11-4 mark this season with a 2.27 GAA and .928 save percentage. He stopped 26 shots in Saturday’s game.


    Wild defenseman Ryan Suter was a 2003 draft pick of Nashville’s and played in 542 games with the Predators before the blockbuster trade to the Wild. Fans still offer up a smattering of boos when Suter touches the puck.


    Injury list:

    Luke Kunin (ACL tear in left knee), out for season, 9 games

    Jared Spurgeon (right hamstring tear), out for a minimum of four weeks, 5 games

    Total man games lost: 128 games


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