A couple of Central Division rivals meet tonight in Minnesota when the Wild host the Nashville Predators. The game can be seen on NBCSN (TSN in Canada) starting at 8 p.m. ET.
Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:
• Entering the tenth game of the season, Wild forward Dany Heatley is still searching for his first goal of the season (0-2=2). Heatley, with 360 goals in 796 NHL games, had never previously gone more than five games without scoring a goal to begin a season. Heatley had 24 points (14g, 10a) in his first 18 career games vs. NSH but has gone scoreless in his last 3 games vs. NSH.
• The Predators are 8-2-1 in their last 11 meetings with the Wild. Since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, seven of eight games have been decided by one goal (the eighth by two goals), with one ending in overtime and three decided in a shootout.
• This game pits the league’s No. 1 and No. 2-ranked faceoff teams, with Nashville winning 55.8% of its draws and Minnesota 55.7%. The Predators’ Paul Gaustad is the NHL leader in faceoff win percentage at 61.1% (110/180), while Kyle Brodziak leads the Wild at 57.7% (75/130), 6th-best in the league. Wild captain Mikko Koivu (56.7%) and Preds veteran David Legwand (56.4%) also are among the top 15. Gaustad has finished among the league’s top 10 in faceoffs in each of the last 4 seasons.
• Predators head coach Barry Trotz is the longest-tenured bench boss in the NHL (hire date: Oct. 6, 1997). Since he coached his – and the Nashville franchise’s – first game (Oct. 10, 1998), there have been 124 other head coaches in the NHL (regular or interim), including NHL on NBC’s Mike Milbury and Ed Olczyk.
Zach Parise ranks 2nd in the NHL with 51 shots on goal – but none of his last 21 have gone in the net, a goal drought spanning four games after the Minnesota top-line left winger had scored four times in the season’s first five games. (Parise has six goals in 10 career games vs. NSH.)
• Parise’s drought reflects his team’s own: the Wild have been held to one goal in each of their last three games, all losses (0-2-1), and have scored two or fewer in seven of their nine games this season. Tonight, they meet a Predators team that has allowed only one non-shootout goal in each of their last three games (2-0-1). Minnesota and Nashville are tied for 25th in the league in goals per game (2.11).
• Wild defenseman, Ryan Suter, the NHL leader in average ice time (29:22), is slated to play in his 600th NHL game tonight. He played his first 542 games in a Predators sweater (2005-12), 2nd among defensemen in franchise history (Kimmo Timonen, 573, 1998-2007). Nashville captain Shea Weber is next in line, with 537 games played.
• Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is 9-3-2, with a 2.08 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 15 career games vs. the Wild, including Nashville’s 3-2 win at home on Oct. 8. His countryman, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (who might start his first game since suffering a strained knee in Nashville on Oct. 8), is 9-5-1 vs. the Preds, with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save %. Backstrom’s first NHL win came at Xcel Energy Center vs. Nashville, on Oct. 7, 2006.
• After allowing six goals in its first 17 times shorthanded this season, the Predators have killed off 16 straight penalties over their last five games (4-0-1), their longest successful PK stretch since killing off 18 in a row between Jan. 10-24, 2012.