The Nashville Predators will try to jump back into the fourth spot in the Western Conference this evening as they take on the surging Minnesota Wild.
The Predators had won three of four before suffering a 5-4 setback to the Blackhawks on Saturday. That kept Nashville at 98 points on the season, one behind idle Detroit for the fourth spot with three games to play. The Red Wings return to action on Wednesday when they visit the Blues.
Nashville is also tied with Chicago for the fifth seed after the Blackhawks earned a point in their 5-4 shootout loss to the Wild on Sunday. The Predators own the current tiebreaker having played one less game than Chicago.
The Blackhawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the Predators on Saturday, but Martin Erat and Shea Weber scored in the second period, and Weber added a game-tying goal at 7:10 of the third minutes after Alexander Radulov's third goal of the season.
However, Chicago got the game-winner from Brent Seabrook at 8:19 in the frame, beating Pekka Rinne, who made saves on 32-of-37 shots faced.
"Yeah, there was opportunity. If you win tonight, you've got a little bit of breathing room," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "It's still in our control in terms of the four or five seed, what's not in our control now is home-ice advantage."
Weber is tied for the lead among NHL defensemen with 19 goals, while Nashville continues to also get excellent production from Erat and blueliner Ryan Suter. The former has a career-high 58 points on the season, while Suter had three assists to give him a personal-best 46 points. David Legwand, meanwhile, had two assists to make him the first player in Predators history to reach 500 career points.
The Predators won the opener of a three-game homestand and will also host the Stars on Thursday before ending their regular season with a visit to Colorado on Saturday.
Nashville is 24-10-5 at home this season and has won four straight as the host versus the Wild, as well as five of the past six encounters overall.
Minnesota, though, has won three straight for the first time since a seven- game win streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 10, picking up wins over playoff contenders Florida, Los Angeles and Chicago. The Wild got a goal and two assists in regulation from Devin Setoguchi versus the Blackhawks on Sunday before he netted the winner in the shootout.
Dany Heatley added a goal and an assist, while Clayton Stoner and Kyle Brodziak also lit the lamp for the Wild. Josh Harding stopped 31 shots in the victory.
"It's big for our club to finish strong and make sure we do things the right way instead of taking an early vacation here," said Setoguchi, whose team sits in 12th place in the Western Conference with 78 points.
After tonight, the Wild will end their season with home games against the Blackhawks and Coyotes.
One key for the Preds will be slowing down Heatley, who has totaled four goals and an assist in the three previous meetings this season and 22 points in 16 career contests against Nashville.