NASHVILLE – The Wild starts the 2019-20 season in a role that will become quite familiar to it over the next handful of weeks: the visitor.
And that test is likely to be magnified Thursday against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena amid the excitement and enthusiasm of it being the season-opener.
“The biggest challenge is getting through the first period the way the crowd is going to be into it, and everybody is going to be into it emotionally,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Get through the first period, get settled in, start playing the way you can [and] it’ll be a good game.”
After a 2-1-3 record in the preseason, the Wild feels ready for the next step.
Newcomers Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman have solidified spots in the lineup. Captain Mikko Koivu and defenseman Matt Dumba have returned from season-ending injuries. And youngsters like Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin seem primed for more opportunity.
But balancing the eagerness for a new season with the composure needed to execute will be key, especially in a pro-Predators environment – which could set the tone for this road-heavy stretch of games; 13 of the Wild’s first 18 games are away from home.
“Anytime during the season this is a tough place to play,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “Fans are great here. They are extremely loud. It's like any tough building on the road. The key is to try to weather it for the first 10, 15 minutes. That doesn't mean that we're going out there and not playing and not pushing. Just being really simple and structured and not trying to give them too much momentum. We have a lot of guys in here that have played a lot of tough games in tough buildings, so we know how to handle it.”
Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Mats Zuccarello
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Kevin Fiala
Ryan Donato-Luke Kunin-Jordan Greenway
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Jared Spurgeon
Nick Seeler-Brad Hunt
9-7-2: The Wild’s record in season openers.
1-6-1: Showing for the Wild when it starts the season on the road.
2-2: How the Wild has fared when opening the season against a Central Division opponent in four of the last five seasons.
10: Goals for winger Zach Parise in season-opening games, which is second among active NHLers.
0-2-2: Record for the Wild vs. the Predators last season.
About the Predators:
Despite losing in the first round last season to the Dallas Stars, the Predators are returning for 2019-20 amid the expectation they’ll be a legit contender. Nashville is the reigning Central Division champion, and it boosted its outlook to defend that title by signing center Matt Duchene to a seven-year, $56 million contract. Winger Viktor Arvidsson is back after setting the franchise record for goals in a season with 34, and goalie Pekka Rinne went 30-19-4. Gone is defenseman P.K. Subban, who was traded to the New Jersey Devils.