Ryan Suter has played in seven Nashville Predators home openers in his career while establishing himself as one of the NHL's top defensemen, but he almost certainly won't be celebrated in the eighth.
Suter makes his second visit to Nashville on Tuesday night while looking to help the Minnesota Wild avoid dropping their first three games for the first time.
Suter departed Nashville after seven seasons to sign a 13-year contract with Minnesota in July 2012. His loss was certainly noticeable in 2013 for the Predators, who finished near the bottom of the Western Conference while Suter helped the Wild reach the postseason.
Suter has made one return to Nashville, and it's likely he'll receive the same reception this time. Booed every time he touched the puck March 9, he recorded an assist in Minnesota's 2-1 shootout victory and seemed hurt by the fans' anger.
"I'm glad it's over," he said after the game.
Suter will try to focus this time on helping the Wild (0-0-2) bounce back from a pair of tough defeats. They allowed the tying score with less than eight minutes left in the third period and fell 3-2 in a shootout to Los Angeles on Thursday, then gave up a goal with 4.9 seconds remaining in overtime of a 4-3 loss to Anaheim on Saturday.
Minnesota battled back from a pair of two-goal deficits against the Ducks, as Zach Parise scored twice and Jason Pominville netted a power-play goal.
"Thursday night, we had a real good 55 minutes and couldn't quite finish it off,'' defenseman Keith Ballard said. "(Saturday), we came out and we weren't ready to play. We were down 2-0 to a skilled hockey team. After that we played a solid game, but you have to clean this up before these things get out of hand.''
Nashville, which selected defenseman Seth Jones with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft essentially to replace Suter, hasn't had much to get excited about so far.
The Predators are on the verge of dropping their first three games for the first time since 2006, falling 4-2 to St. Louis on Thursday and 3-1 to Colorado the following night.
Paul Gaustad scored the lone goal Friday as Nashville was unable to get much going offensively.
"We need some of our skill guys to step up. No production from some of our skill guys,'' coach Barry Trotz said. "We've got some work to do. There were lots of positives, but the negative is we didn't win the game.''
Defenseman Roman Josi left the contest with an upper-body injury after taking what appeared to be an illegal hit, and his status for this contest is uncertain.
Minnesota center Charlie Coyle will miss 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee. Jason Zucker, who played 20 games last season, was called up from the AHL to take Coyle's place.
Niklas Backstrom, 2-1-1 with a 1.42 goals-against average in his last four against the Predators, likely will be in net opposing Pekka Rinne, 6-2-1 with a 1.65 GAA in his last nine against Minnesota.
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