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Wild try to stay hot at home vs. Preds
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild will try to head into the Olympic break with a fifth straight victory at home as they host the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
Following a 1-1-2 road trip, the Wild returned home to best the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Tuesday. Dany Heatley had the deciding goal early in the period, while Darcy Kuemper was solid with 34 saves.
Nino Niederreiter also scored and Jared Spurgeon assisted on both goals in his return to the lineup. The defenseman had missed the last 14 games with a foot injury.
"I liked the way our guys came into this game," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said. "You could tell they had the right focus defensively and execution wise."
The Wild improved to 20-7-2 at home this season and won't play again after tonight until Feb. 27 in Edmonton due to the league's break for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Minnesota forward Zach Parise is serving as captain for the U.S. team at the Games, while teammate Ryan Suter is an alternate captain.
The Wild own the first of two wild card spots in the Western Conference and won't have defenseman Marco Scandella for tonight's game after he suffered a sprained knee versus the Lightning.
Minnesota lost its first meeting with Nashville this season, but has rebounded with back-to-back shutout wins over the club. The Wild enter this encounter with a shutout streak of 168 minutes and 46 seconds in this series.
The Preds have not scored versus the Wild since Eric Nystrom's successful penalty shot in the first period of a 3-2 win on Oct. 8.
Kuemper recorded his first NHL shutout in the last meeting, a 4-0 victory in Nashville on Jan. 12.
The Predators were aiming for a third straight victory on Saturday, but had to settle for just a point in a 4-3 setback to the St. Louis Blues in a shootout. Nashville fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season.
The Preds rallied from two goals down to take the lead on tallies by Paul Gaustad, Mike Fisher and Roman Josi, but gave up the game-tying goal just 16 seconds after Josi tallied at 7:33 of the third period.
"I thought it was a great point for us," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "You're down to the St. Louis Blues 2-0 and it's a real hard rink to come into. They come at you hard. I thought as game went on, we got better and better."
Carter Hutton allowed three goals on 34 shots and Josi notched his fourth goal and 10th point in his past nine games. David Legwand had an assist on Josi's goal, giving him a point in four straight.
Nashville, which will host Anaheim on Saturday, is four points out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference and could get both Viktor Stalberg and Matt Cullen back in the lineup tonight.
Both forwards have missed the last four games with upper-body injuries, but practiced on Tuesday.
02/06 11:24:22 ET