Minnesota Wild (43-26-12: 98 points, 7th in Western Conference, 4th in Central Division) vs. Nashville Predators (37-32-12: 86 points, 10th in Western Conference, 6th in Central Division)
It seemed like it would never come, that it was always far off in the distant future, yet here we are — the Wild hosts the Predators tonight in the final game of the regular season.

Thankfully for the State of Hockey, it won’t be the last time we’ll see our boys in Iron Range Red or Forrest Green at Xcel Energy Center with the playoffs just around the corner. The Wild has already started to ramp up for the postseason, using any bit of practice time it can to bring energy, work hard, and stay focused on its game.

Before Minnesota can focus on whoever will be its first round opponent, which will be determined today, it has Nashville first. Tonight marks the fifth (and of course final) meeting of the season between the Wild and the Predators. The Wild holds a 3-1-0 edge on the season series, and earned a 3-2 win in its most recent meeting, Feb. 6 at Xcel Energy Center.

In tonight’s contest, the Wild will put a four-game win streak on the line. The streak is just shy of a season-best five-game win streak (2/4-3/3) so a win could tie the mark. In its push for the playoffs, Minnesota has earned a point in seven straight games with a 6-0-1 record. In that span, the Wild earned wins against the no. 1 (Boston), no. 3 (St. Louis) and no. 5 (Pittsburgh) teams in the National Hockey League. It’s also earned seven of a possible eight points against the last four franchises to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Tonight, Clayton Stoner is expected to re-enter the lineup since sustaining a lower-body injury March 22 against the Red Wings. He has missed 10 games, but Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo noted that he was ahead of schedule and has looked good in practice. Both Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak will get the night off after battling some discomfort. With Brodziak out, Nino Niederreiter will try his hand at center. The Wild may use seven defenseman with Jon Blum moving up on the wing at times.

After a night off, Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to get the nod in net tonight. He is 10-6-3 against Nashville with a 2.41 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and two shutouts.

Thursday night, the Wild upended the Blues 4-2, bringing St. Louis’ unbeaten streak against Minnesota to halt at nine games. Kyle Brodziak scored a pair of goals in the contest, ending a 17-game goalless drought. Nino Niederreiter and Matt Moulson also tallied goals in the game. Curry made his debut with the Wild and made a career-high 43 saves for the win.

Nashville was in action last night, tapping the Chicago Blackhawks for a 7-5 win. Craig Smith, Ryan Ellis, Matt Cullen, Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad, Patric Horqvist and Shea Weber each scored for the Predators while Pekka Rinne made 20 saves in the outing. 
If You're Going
Though the Preds are out of the playoffs, that doesn’t mean they won’t want to steal some points in the final game of the season.

Shea Weber has put up career numbers for Nashville this season, vying for the Norris Trophy. He leads the team in all scoring categories with 22 goals and 33 assists for 55 points. His 55 points tie a franchise record in Nashville for the most points in a single season by a defenseman. His 22 goals lead all NHL defensemen.
Tonight is the final night of Fan Celebration Week. All fans will receive a 2013-14 team poster.

The Wild will wear its GREEN sweaters.
Who's Hot Gameday Media
Mikko Koivu played his 600th NHL game Thursday — all with the Wild. The Wild captain leads the NHL with 13 assists and T-1st with 16 points since March 18 (13 games). He has 26 points (4-22=26) in his last 25 games and leads the Wild in assists this season (his fourth topping 40), ranking third with 53 points (11-42=53) in 64 games.

Fans can guess who's going to be hot with the Wild's HotBox Fantasy Challenge for a chance to win great prizes.

Game Notes | Transactions | Injury Report | Lighthouse | @mnwildLIVE | @mnwild
Yeo |
Preview: Wild vs. Nashville
Probably Wild Lineup Between The Pipes
Niederreiter will slide in at center:


Clayton Stoner will make his return to the blue line and the Wild may use seven defensemen:

Brzgalov is 10-6-3 against Nashville with a 2.41 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and two shutouts.
View From The Press Box
He’s ahead of schedule here, but I think he looks really good. We’ll give him a chance to get in and play a game before the playoffs start to get him comfortable and for us to see where he’s at as well.

-Yeo on Stoner’s return.

It appears defenseman Christian Folin will get a rest along with forwards Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and Mike Rupp, who is serving his suspension. Defenseman Keith Ballard has a lower-body injury while Darcy Kuemper and Mikael Granlund have upper-body injuries.

Forward Jason Zucker (surgery) and goaltender Josh Harding (illness) are on Injured Reserve. Niklas Backstrom is shutdown for the remainder of the season.
Honorary State of Hockey Resident Worthless Stat
C Matt Cullen, a native of Virginia, collected 101 points (33- 68=101) in 193 games with the Wild (2010-13). LW Eric Nystrom skat¬ed in 82 games with Minnesota (2010-11). Nashville Assistant Coach Phil Housley is a native of South Saint Paul and previously coached at Stillwater High School. Eight of the last 11 contests between the two teams have been decided by one goal. The first meeting between the two teams this season, on Oct. 22, 2013, marked the Predators lowest shots on goal against the Wild with 16.

Broadcast Info In Case You Missed It
Wild vs. Predators will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North with a start time at 7:00 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.            
Seizing The Opportunity | Wild Fan From Down Under Five Takeaways vs STL | 5-Hole vs STL |
Yeo Postgame vs. STL | Brodziak Postgame vs. STL | Folin Postgame vs. STL | Niederreiter Postgame vs. STL | Curry Postgame vs. STL |
  Saturday Practice |
Photo Gallery
Wild vs St. Louis | A Season In Hugs
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