Wild visit Preds in matchup of playoff-bound clubs

(SportsNetwork.com) – The Minnesota Wild clinched a postseason berth with a
win the last time out and will try to make it two straight victories when they
visit the Nashville Predators in Thursday’s clash at Bridgestone Arena.

The Wild are headed back to the playoffs for a third straight season after
picking up a 2-1 win in Chicago on Tuesday. Minnesota holds the first wild
card spot in the West and is four points behind the Blackhawks for the third
seed in the Central Division with two games to play. Chicago also has two
games remaining and is visiting St. Louis on Thursday.

Minnesota also sits two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets for the first wild
card. The Jets have two games remaining and play at Colorado on Thursday.

Nashville, meanwhile, is trying to win its first ever division title. The
Predators have 104 points, putting them one behind St. Louis for the Central
lead. Both clubs have two games left.

The Wild claimed a spot in the postseason thanks to their win in Chicago and a
Los Angeles loss to Edmonton later on Tuesday.

Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker scored less than four minutes apart in the
third period for Minnesota, and Devan Dubnyk did the rest.

The Wild were under .500 (18-19-5) and far out of playoff contention when they
traded for Dubnyk on Jan. 14, and the former Coyotes goaltender has been
nothing short of spectacular in turning Minnesota’s season around.

Dubnyk has posted a 27-8-0 record since the deal, and his latest 32-save gem
helped snap the Wild’s three-game slide.

“We worked and did a lot of good things to put ourselves in this spot,” Dubnyk
said. “It’s important to get in, but we’re looking to do something more
special this year.”

Minnesota is closing the regular season on a three-game road trip and plays
the middle part of that swing tonight before visiting St. Louis on Saturday.
The Wild are 23-14-2 away from home this season.

Nashville already has clinched a playoff spot, but the club hasn’t helped its
division title cause with a 0-2-2 mark over the last four games. The Preds
can’t fall further than the third seed in the Central and enter Thursday with
a two-point lead over the Blackhawks.

The Predators dropped a 3-2 regulation decision in Colorado on Tuesday. The
Avalanche led 2-1 after 40 minutes before Ryan Ellis evened the score with a
power-play tally just 80 seconds into the third period. However, Colorado’s
Joey Hishon notched his first career goal 7:06 into the final stanza to
provide the game-winner for the home team.

Pekka Rinne stopped 20 shots for Nashville, which wasted an opportunity to
reclaim first place in the Central Division after the Blues lost to Winnipeg
at home earlier Tuesday.

Calle Jarnkrok scored the other goal for the Predators, who had won four
straight before this slide.

“Our goal is to play the best hockey right now and we are not,” said Nashville
defenseman Shea Weber. “We have to limit the turnovers and we just haven’t
done it.”

Nashville is playing its final home test of the regular season tonight before
completing its schedule Saturday in Dallas. The Preds boast a 28-8-4 mark in
the Music City, but have dropped three straight as the host.

The Wild have claimed the last two meetings with Nashville and both teams hold
a 2-1-1 mark in the season series. Minnesota has claimed three straight and
four of the last five at Bridgestone Arena.

Rinne is 11-5-3 with a 2.22 goals against average in his career against
Minnesota. Dubnyk is 6-3-2 with a 2.27 GAA in 12 lifetime appearances versus
the Predators.