It’s almost time to say sayonara to 2010, but there’s some business at hand in the hours leading up to the big ball drop. The struggling (and angry) Nashville Predators, losers of five straight, will be in the building tonight. The Preds sit just one point ahead of the Wild in the standings, while the Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes are just two up.
A New Year’s victory will be huge, but it certainly will not be easy. Remember the kind of game the Blue Jackets played on Monday night when they were also struggling, and being threatened by their coach with healthy scratches. I’m assuming Barry Trotz is issuing the same kind of challenge to his club, which has scored an average of one goal over the five losses.
The Wild lineup is still in flux as Cal Clutterbuck will be a gametime decision. He did participate in the Wild’s very optional skate today, but there was no official word. Niklas Backstrom was also out there, and he will be the starting goalie tonight. Marek Zidlicky is out. A forward and defenseman will be scratched tonight, but we won’t know until warmups.
Couple other things: Jason Zucker sat out last night as the United States shut out Germany, 4-0. The U.S. will play its last preliminary game tonight against Switzerland. Zucker’s status is unknown. None of the five Minnesotans on the team picked up a goal last night.
Erik Haula did pick up his first goal of the tournament on Wednesday when Finland beat Germany, 5-1. Haula has a point in each game with a goal and two helpers.
Meanwhile, Johan Larsson tallied a goal and an assist in Sweden’s 6-3 win over the Czech Republic yesterday. He also now has a goal and two assists through three games. Goaltender Johan Gustafsson has not seen any action in the tournament.