The Minnesota Wild visit the Nashville Predators on Thursday for the opening game of the NHL regular season for both teams. Minnesota starts the season with a new General Manager in Bill Guerin but the roster from 2018-19 is for the most part unchanged. The Wild did sign Mats Zuccarello to a long-term deal and he will give Minnesota scoring it desperately needs.
Ryan Hartman was signed as well but will play on the third or possibly the fourth line for the Wild. Kevin Fiala as well as Ryan Donato return from last season when both signed with Minnesota late in the year. Donato is expected to be a big contributor in 2019-20. The versatile Donato can play center or wing and the 23-year has proven to be a scorer at lower levels and the skill is there to do the same in the NHL.
Nashville has wanted a No. 2 center for years and may have found their player in Matt Duchene, who has been long-coveted by the Predators front office. P.K. Subban was dealt to New Jersey to free up cap space. Roman Josi is the next to get an extension and Nashville will need space for that under the cap and a player or two may be shipped out because of that.
Nashville picked up Steven Santini to replace Subban on the roster. Dante Fabbro will see much more time now that Subban is gone. Mikael Granlund is expected to have a breakout season. Granlund has played in the NHL since 2012 but all signs point to the forward having a season of 30 or more goals with Nashville. Defense remains the strength in Nashville and the three holding down the fort in front of the net are Ryan Ellis, Mattais Ekholm and Josi.
With Nashville having a lock down defense this game will be low scoring with the Predators coming out on top at home. Nashville has won each of the last 5 meetings between the two and each of the last 5 played on its home ice against Minnesota. The Wild play poorly on the road having lost 9 of the last 11 away from home ice and 18 of the last 22 overall when playing as an underdog. Final Score Prediction, Nashville Predators win 3-1