The Nashville Predators (18-11-2) hope to extend their team record four game win streak against the Detroit Red Wings (15-11-5) tonight at the Sommet Center where the season's first sell-out crowd is expected.
The Preds and Wings have met once this year, in Nashville on November 23, in a game that he Preds won 3-1. The Preds won the last three meetings between the teams last year starting with the 8-0 oddity on February 28 in Nashville.
After several games of uneven play, the Predators have played much better the last two games with wins against Vancouver and Columbus (shoot-out) and hope to continue the improved play against their biggest rival this evening.
The Red Wings played at home last night and came out on top of the struggling Anaheim Ducks in a 3-2 come from behind overtime victory. Todd Bertuzzi was the star, scoring the game tying and game winning goal for the Wings. Jimmy Howard picked up the win in net.
The Wings have extra incentive to beat the Preds as they trail Nashville in the Western Conference standings, a rarity this late in the season. The Predators are tied for sixth with 38 points while the Wings are in ninth place with 35 points.
Detroit has been plagued by injuries all season and currently have a group of six players on long term injured reserve that would be a formidable unit for any team. Johan Franzen (knee), Jason Williams (leg), Dan Cleary (shoulder), Valtteri Filppula (wrist), Niklas Kronwall (knee), and Andreas Lilja (concussion) are all out for extended periods of time.
Pekka Rinne (13-6-1, 2.45, .910) will start in net for the Predators while Chis Osgood (6-5-4, 2.75, .896) will go for the Wings. Jimmy Howard (9-6-1, 2.43, .914) has started twelve of the Wing's last 16 games but has still not officially been named the Wings number one goalie. Osgood has struggled early before only to come on and star in the playoffs.
Predators Keys to the Game
Play a Full Sixty Minute Game...
While the Wings don't appear to be the same team that Pred Fans expect to see, they are still a dangerous team loaded with many skilled weapons. Any lapse in play or focus by the Preds will result in the Wings finding the Pred's net.
Chris Osgood has been shake this year and has not played much lately. The Preds need to have good net presence and crowd Osgood around the net, picking up as many second chance shots as possible. Getting the first goal early will make for a much better chance of winning.
As was seen last night when they came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Ducks, the Wings can come back so no lead is secure.
Focus on Special Teams...
The Wings and Preds are ranked one and two respectively in the fewest amount of penalty minutes per game so man advantage situations should be a rarity in tonight's game. When they do occur, they need to be treated with extra urgency.
The Preds need to score on the power play to get back on track after missing out against Columbus. The Predators are 9 for 27 on the power play in their last seven games against Detroit and scored twice in their previous meeting in November.
The Wings normally effective power play has struggled recently going 5 for 39 in their last ten games. Despite that, the Wings are ranked tenth in the league at 20.6%. The Wing's penalty kill is currently riding a streak of 25 straight kills and is ranked 18th in the league at 80.0%.
Limit Scoring Opportunities for the Wings...
The Wings average 34.2 shots per game and traditionally have run up big totals against the Preds. The Predators need to play a controlled game with plenty of forechecking and puck control in the Detroit zone to limit the amount of time the Wings play in the Predators zone.
In the first meeting this year the Preds held the Wings to 31 shots which was a key ingredient in their 3-1 win.
Pekka Rinne was the game saver against Columbus making up for several Predator errors in the closing minutes of the game, but the team needs to put him in less of those situations in order to be successful against the Wings.
The Predators travel to Columbus on Monday and return home for a meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
In Pred Nation...
Dirk the Forechecker takes on the Tennessean and their most recent attack on the Preadators armed with half truths and innuendo basing a fresh article on old news and information from sources that have been proven not to be creditable (Forbes). I'm glad Dirk wrote this because if I took a swipe at them, I doubt that I would have been as civil.
Mark Willoughby from the view from 111 hashes out the financial end of the Predators situation from his point of view as a financial expert. I trust Mark's view over that of the business hacks at the Tennessean.
For legitimate news the Tennessean lets John Glennon report on the number of Predator players that are in their contract year. He also has the Game at a Glance for tonight's game. This morning he has his game day update at Inside Predators.
Paul McCann and Jim Diamond check in with game stories for the Preds Wings game.
Admiral's Short Shifts has the story on Milwaukee's 4-2 win over San Antonio on Friday night that included Colin Wilson's first goal and the return of Mark Dekanich.
Our friend Hunter Patterson has a Preds story today at his blog.
Finally, Dirk found this one, a Preds Primer for football fans. Hats off to the mystery creator.
For all those going to the game tonight, stop by outside the 310-311 entrance and say hey between periods.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass