NHL on NBCSN: Wild need two points from NHL-leading Preds

21 Comments

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Nashville Predators host the Minnesota Wild at the Bridgestone Arena at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Under normal circumstances, losing a single game against any team — even the lowly Edmonton Oilers — after winning 11 of 13 wouldn’t be an issue, but it is for the Minnesota Wild. Their midseason struggles combined with the increasingly competitive nature of the Western Conference Wild Card race has put Minnesota in a situation where it can’t afford to absorb many more setbacks.

So while a loss against the NHL-leading Nashville Predators would be understandable, it would also be ill-timed. The Wild should consequently have no trouble finding motivation tonight, but it will still be an uphill battle given Nashville’s near complete dominance at home. The Predators have a 26-3-1 record at the Bridgestone Arena while the Wild are mediocre 14-14-2 on the road.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $50,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday night’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

As has consistently been the case since he was acquired from Arizona, the Wild will likely lean on goaltender Devan Dubnyk. However, he’ll be backed by another reinforcement in forward Sean Bergenheim. The Wild acquired him from the Florida Panthers on Tuesday along with a 2016 seventh-round pick in exchange for a 2016 third-round selection.

Bergenheim spent six straight games in the press box before the trade and only averaged 14:09 minutes per contest even when he did play, but Minnesota is betting that he can bounce back if given the chance.

“I’m pretty happy with how I’ve played this season in the role I’ve been given,” Bergenheim told the Star Tribune. “But I know there’s a lot more energy in me to play a better role.

“I want to bring energy, I want to bring forechecking, I want to bring pressure in the offensive zone. I want to get the pucks to the net, get myself to the net, and hopefully score some goals. I think in that sense I can help the team.”

Jason Pominville will be another Minnesota forward to keep an eye on. He’s second on the team with 41 points in 60 contests, but he’s been held off the scoresheet for six straight contests and has finished without a point in 11 of his last 14 games. The Wild have excelled lately even without his normal offensive production, but at some point they’re going to need him to step up if they want to maintain their recent pace.

Given how effective Nashville has been, tonight might be the night Minnesota needs Pominville to bounce back.