A small card for a Saturday in the NHL, as college football steals some of the spotlight with a big day of bowls. The NHL hosts the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day in Buffalo. The first ever Winter Classic was in Buffalo, and the league is heading back to where it all started for the 10th anniversary. It seemed like a gimmicky thing to do at the time, hold an outdoor NHL game, but it’s become a fixture of the NHL.
It spawned variations of the game, with a few other outdoor games in other cities as well. It’s been cold as ever across the country, and Buffalo is going to be an ice box for this game on Monday. I went to the Winter Classic at the Big House between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings. It was nearly impossible to have a beer because it kept freezing. People in Buffalo will be running into the same problem.
The Wild and Predators will play indoors tonight in Nashville. The Predators return home after three in a row on the road. It hasn’t been the kindest schedule for them, as they’ve been on the road for six of their last eight, and seven of their last ten games. They took one of three on the road, concluding the trip with a 4-2 loss to the Wild last night. It’s a quick turnaround for these two, but it’s always nice to get these mini-series.
The Predators enter tonight with a record of 22-10-1. A season removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, they do have a shot of getting back there. I don’t know if they’re any better than last season, but if they get on another hot run at the right time, they’re a tough team to slow down. Confidence oozes from them when they are in the swing of things.
The Wild come in at 20-15-2 and need to get going. Dean Dubnyk returned to the crease last night and earned a 4-2 win, stopping 41 shots. Dubnyk looked sharp, but they may opt to give Stalock for the start on Saturday night. Giving him a back-to-back after returning from an injury might be a questionable call, but keep an eye on the decision later today. Head below for our free Wild vs. Predators pick.
Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators Pick
The Wild are slowly working Zach Parise back, but he is still rehabbing down in the AHL. They really need to get a healthy Parise back, and hope Dubnyk can stay healthy as well. Stalock has been okay, but Dubnyk is capable of going on heaters in net. Without Dubnyk playing at a quality level of play, the Wild are a rather average team. And the last game Parise played in was back on April 8th, so he’s missed the entire season thus far. The Wild are 17th in the NHL with 2.81 goals per game. Defensively they’ve allowed 2.87 goals per game for 19th in the league. Pretty average numbers for an average team at the moment.
The Predators got worked in their own zone last night in Minnesota. They gave up 37 shots and Rinne failed to stop 3 of them. No knock on the offence, as they hit Dubnyk for 43 saves. It happens sometimes. The Predators return home where they’ve been much better. Nashville are 11-4-0 at home. I expect Juuse Saros to get the nod in net for the Preds, giving Rinne the night off after starting last night. Saros comes in with a respectable 2.64 GAA and 0.918 save percentage. Stalock owns a 2.72 GAA and 0.915 save percentage. Back home, I like the Predators to return the favor and get even with the Wild on this home-and-home.
PICK: PREDATORS (-150)