Neal to miss third straight as Preds host Wild in key tilt

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The Nashville Predators will be without co-leading goalscorer James Neal for the third consecutive game when they host the Wild tonight.

Neal, currently dealing with an upper-body issue, hasn’t played since a 2-0 loss to San Jose on Mar. 12. Prior to that the 27-year-old was mired in a bad slump, with just one goal in his previous 11 games.

As Neal hit the skids and eventually exited the lineup hurt, the Preds went through — and are still experiencing — their toughest stretch of the season. The club is 2-8-0 in its last 10 and has lost its grip on the Central Division; heading into tonight’s play the Preds trail St. Louis for the lead (via tiebreaker) and are just five points up on Chicago, with the ‘Hawks holding three games in hand.

As for the Wild, tonight’s game is (another) big one in the Western Conference wild card race. Minnesota holds the first of two spots with 83 points, two up on Los Angeles and three up on Winnipeg — and the Jets are in action tonight, hosting San Jose.