NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, January 31st
(All times Eastern)
Nashville Predators (30-16-4) at Minnesota Wild (24-18-7), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter and Shea Weber would rather
wait until after the season to address their contracts than possibly become a
distraction for the surging Predators.
With Nashville challenging for one of the Western Conference's top spots, that
might not be such a terrible idea.
The Preds look to extend their winning streak to five straight games this
evening and prevent the Minnesota Wild from building any second-half momentum.
The contracts of both Weber and Suter became a topic of discussion over the
All-Star break, with both indicating they don't plan on signing new deals
during the season. Weber is set to become a restricted free agent, while Suter
will be unrestricted, making his status more of the focus. Nashville may be
faced with the possibility of dealing Suter before the trade deadline if it
thinks it won't be able to re-sign the defender.
With Weber and Suter manning the blue line, the Predators sit in a tie for
fifth in the conference with 64 points, but just three back of Detroit for
first place in the overall NHL standings. Weber is second on the club with 34
points off 10 goals and 24 assists, while Suter has 28 points.
One player that Nashville does have locked up is goaltender Pekka Rinne and he
comes out of the break having won each of his past nine starts to set a new
club record. He has given up two goals or less in each of those victories,
having not lost since Jan. 5 while running his record to 28-11-4 with a 2.36
goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
Rinne made 24 saves in last Tuesday's 3-1 victory over Central Division-rival
Chicago, forging a tie between the two clubs in the standings after helping
Nashville claim its 12th victory in 14 games.
"The deeper we get into this season, the more fun it gets," Rinne said. "The
magnitude of the games are close and it's so much fun."
The Wild were once a team that the Predators were chasing, but Minnesota has
fallen to eight overall in the West after going 4-11-4 over its past 19 games.
The Wild did go into the All-Star break with consecutive wins against Dallas
and Colorado, giving them two straight victories for the first time since a
seven-game win streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 10.
Minnesota moved a point past Colorado in the standings with a 3-2 win at the
Avalanche a week ago. Dany Heatley had a goal and leads the Wild with 15 goals
and 34 points.
The club does open up play without All-Star selection and captain Mikko Koivu,
who has missed the past four games plus the All-Star contest due to a left
shoulder injury. He skated on Monday, but a return date is unknown.
Minnesota's win at Colorado was its first on the road since Dec. 10 at
Phoenix. The Wild had gone 0-9-2 since and will play three straight as the
guest following tonight's game.
The Wild and Predators have split two meetings so far this year, with
Minnesota picking up a 3-2 home win back on Nov. 23. Nashville has still won
four of the past five encounters overall.
01/31 10:35:36 ET