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Minnesota (35-25-7) at Nashville (33-24-10)

By NOEY KUPCHAN, STATS Writer Wednesday, Mar 9, 2011 Puck Drop: 8:00 pm EST Thu Mar 10, 2011

As they continue to fight for playoff spots, the Minnesota Wild seem to be getting healthy at just the right time while the Nashville Predators are mired in a disappointing stretch.

Looking to avoid a third consecutive loss to the Predators, the Wild are hoping to have Cal Clutterbuck(notes) and Mikko Koivu(notes) available as they begin a crucial four-game road trip Thursday night.

After a torn labrum in his hip and a bilateral sports hernia sidelined him for 58 games, left wing Guillaume Latendresse(notes) returned Tuesday night as Minnesota (35-25-7) defeated Colorado 5-2.

Latendresse, who tied for the team lead with 25 goals in 55 games last season after he was acquired from Montreal, had three goals and three assists in eight games before getting hurt.

With 77 points, Minnesota sits just one ahead of Nashville (33-24-10). Both are among a handful of teams fighting for playoff spots in the tightly contested Western Conference.

“Those guys worked so hard to be where we are,” Latendresse said after being on the ice for 10:21 on Tuesday. “You just try to get in that and get into the game and help as much as I can. I think I did the best that I could. I haven’t played for four months, so it’s just going to get better and better.”

The Wild, who also play Dallas and division-leaders Vancouver and San Jose on their trip, could be getting Clutterbuck and Koivu back as they prepare to make their playoff push.

Clutterbuck has been out with an apparent concussion since last Thursday while Koivu, second on the team with 49 points, has missed nine games with a broken left index finger. It is unknown if either player will be available against Nashville.

“Other teams are struggling with it, so we’re not crying over here, but injuries are huge this time of year especially when you lose a guy like Koivu or Clutterbuck,” said center John Madden(notes), who scored Tuesday. “It’s nice to see Gui back in.”

Niklas Backstrom(notes) stopped 28 shots against the Avalanche to snap a personal three-game losing streak - his longest since Nov. 20-27.

Backstrom has lost three straight and four of five road starts while posting a 3.04 goals-against average. He is 3-0-0 with a 1.99 GAA lifetime in Nashville.

The Predators, who have scored 13 goals in their last eight games, return home after closing out a four-game trip with a 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose on Tuesday night.

“We had a couple of good scoring chances and we needed just one good shot to change the game,” said Pekka Rinne(notes), who made 30 saves.

As of Feb. 17, Nashville sat in a fourth-place tie with the Sharks but now finds itself on the outside of the playoff picture thanks to a 2-5-2 stretch.

Rinne, who started each of those nine games, is 4-3-2 with a 2.14 GAA in his last nine starts at Bridgestone Arena. He is 3-0-0 with a 0.33 GAA and two shutouts in three home starts against Minnesota over his career.

Predators defenseman Shea Weber(notes) tallied his team-leading 40th and 41st points Tuesday with a goal and an assist. Right wing Joel Ward(notes), who also scored versus the Sharks, began his career with the Wild and has scored in both wins over his former team in 2010-11.

Minnesota won the first meeting 5-2 on Nov. 26 as Martin Havlat(notes) recorded two goals and an assist.

Updated Wednesday, Mar 9, 2011

Team Comparison

Team G W L OTL Pts Standings GF GA Road/Home
Minnesota 82 39 35 8 86 3rd, Central 206 233 20-18-3 Road
Nashville 82 44 27 11 99 2nd, Central 219 194 24-9-8 Home


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Thursday, Mar 10