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The Wild Beat

Botched 5-on-4 among Wild's close calls in 1-0 loss to Predators

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk’s job is to prevent goals, but he tried to help the team’s offense Monday in a 1-0 loss to the Predators with a unique strategy: pulling himself during 4-on-4 action.



Dubnyk skated to the bench past the halfway point of the third period, hoping the Wild would replace him with an extra skater to gain a 5-on-4 advantage. And he did this because the Wild’s net was off its moorings, a circumstance he tried to exploit since he knew the play would be whistled down as soon as the Predators gained possession.

But once he arrived at the bench, teammates clamored for him to return to his crease – not realizing what he was trying to orchestrate. Dubnyk finally acquiesced but when he did, the team was called for having too many men on the ice.

“Everybody wanted me to get back in there, so I went back in there and I didn't realize we had too many guys on the ice,” Dubnyk said. “I don't know. I just thought we could play 5-on-4 for a little bit.”

The idea came to Dubnyk in the first period after the net was knocked ajar and he did nothing. He had recently read about Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev pulling the same stunt in a game earlier this month.

“I’ve never seen that play happen in my life,” winger Jason Zucker said. “But it’s a pretty smart play. If we communicate a little better on the bench about it, I think it was a pretty smart play because they can’t count the goal if the net’s off. So it makes sense.”

Nashville’s lone goal came shorthanded in the first period, a sequence coach Bruce Boudreau felt was off-side even though he didn’t issue a coach’s challenge.

“[Winger Viktor Arvidsson] was over before the puck, but they would have deemed him under control but he didn’t touch the puck after it entered the blue line if you look at it,” Boudreau said. “So how can you deem that he’s got control of it? It would have been a pass and if it’s a pass, he doesn’t have control over it. So that’s frustrating.”

Winger Ryan Donato had a team-high five shots and came close to tying it late in the third period when he sent a shot off the crossbar.

“The future looks good with him,” Boudreau said. “He’s going to be a really good player. I think the fans of Minnesota are going to really like what he does. But personally, I’d like to have it right now. I know what he’s going to be in the future. I’d like to see something in the present.”

While there were cheers slipping out from the Predators’ locker room after the game, as the team clinched a playoff berth, the Wild was much more subdued going into a three-day break in the schedule – a timeout in which its two-point deficit for the second wild card berth could expand since the Avalanche play Wednesday.

“As long as we’re in a position to be able to make the playoffs, we’ll draw on that,” Boudreau said.

Parise sidelined for tonight's key Wild game

Wild winger Zach Parise won’t play Monday against the Predators at Xcel Energy Center, the second straight game he’ll miss with a lower-body injury.

“Zach’s better,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s obviously not playing tonight but we’re hoping that if all goes well, he’ll be back sooner than later.”

Parise was clipped by Capitals winger Tom Wilson in the third period Friday. He kept playing, setting up the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory for the Wild, but was out Saturday when the team finished off its back-to-back with a 5-1 loss to the Hurricanes in Carolina.

Nashville, second in the Central Division, has an 11-point lead on the Wild. Former Gophers center Rem Pitlick, signed last week, will make his NHL debut tonight for Nashville. Pitlick (pictured) passed up his final year of eligibility with the Gophers to start a two-year, entry-level contract with the Predators.

“It’s super exciting, and I’m really grateful for this opportunity," he said. "It’s pretty cool that I’m able to make my debut at home in front of my friends and family, so it’s going to be awesome.”

The Wild, meanwhile, hopes Parise could be back in action this weekend when it returns to the road for a two-game tour of Vegas and Arizona.

That’s also when the Wild could get center Joel Eriksson Ek back in the lineup.

Eriksson Ek, who’s been sidelined with a lower-body injury since getting hurt March 11 against the San Jose Sharks, participated in the team’s morning skate Monday after a 10-minute session Sunday – the first time he was on the ice since he was injured.

“He looked great today,” Boudreau said. “You want to get him back in as soon as you can. But when somebody hasn’t skated for [almost two weeks], I think it’s tough to throw them back in and then you have three days for him to skate this week and hopefully by Friday he’s ready to play.”

After an overtime loss for the Avalanche Sunday, the Wild resumes play against Nashville two points back of Colorado for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

The team, along with the Avalanche and Coyotes (who are tied with the Wild with 79 points), have six games to go.

“It’s a fun part of the year,” Boudreau said. “You either embrace it and enjoy this and let it grab you and go for it, or you get afraid of it. And if you get afraid of it, then you’re in trouble anyway. We want guys to embrace this challenge and win the challenge.”

Projected Wild lineup:

Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Kevin Fiala

Jordan Greenway-Luke Kunin-Ryan Donato

Marcus Foligno-Victor Rask-Pontus Aberg

Matt Read-Eric Fehr-J.T. Brown

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Brad Hunt

Nick Seeler-Greg Pateryn

Devan Dubnyk

Key numbers:

0-1-2: Record for the Wild this season vs. the Predators.

15: Points for winger Ryan Donato in his last 16 games.

6: Game-opening goals for winger Jordan Greenway.

60: Points by Wild rookies.

6: Game-winning goals by center Eric Staal, which is tops on the Wild.

About the Predators:

Nashville is second in the Central Division with 90 points, four behind Winnipeg for the top spot. The Predators are coming off a 5-0 loss to the Jets Saturday. Before then, they’d won three of their previous four games. Winger Filip Forsberg has 24 points in his last 30 games. Fellow winger Viktor Arvidsson has a team-high 31 goals, while center Ryan Johansen leads the Predators in points with 60.

Final, 3/25 1 2 3 F
Nashville 43-28-6 1 0 0 1
Minnesota 35-33-9 0 0 0 0

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