After losing four in a row and looking fairly comfortable in doing so, the Nashville Predators (29-20-3) head into Detroit to play the Red Wings (25-19-9) in Joe Louis Arena tonight at 6:30 CST.
This will be the third meeting of the year between the two teams and the first in Detroit. Detroit lost 3-1 on November 23 and won 3-2 in overtime on December 12.
The game will be a tough battle for playoff position as Nashville is in seventh with 61 points and Detroit is two points back in ninth with 59. The eight to twelve points available in the last four games of the year between the two teams will play a big part in each team's playoff chances.
Dan Ellis (11-10-1, 2.59, .912) will start in goal for the Preds while Jimmy Howard (18-11-5, 2.30, .924) will be in the Wing's net.
Both teams have several injuries to key players. Detroit is missing Johan Franzen, Thomas Holstrom, and Andreas Lilja. They are expected to have Jason Williams back for his first game in eight weeks.
The Predators are still missing Joel Ward, Marcel Goc and Wade Belak. Andreas Thuresson was recalled on Thursday so that hey would have 20 healthy skaters.
Predators Keys to the Game
Slow down Todd Bertuzzi and Drew Miller (and all the other Weapons)...
Bertuzzi and Miller have scored all four goals against the Preds in the two prior meetings. While these two have been dangerous, the Preds also need to keep an eye on the many other weapons that the Wings possess.
The Wings have had no shortage of Pred killers over the years. The key will be for the Preds to play with dicipline and keep the puck in their possession as much as possible in order to limit their chances. The Wings have traditionally passed the 40 shot mark against the Preds and the way the Pred defense has had numerous recent lapses in front of the net, that could easily translate into five plus goals.
Goalie Switch for Both Teams...
This will be the first time that Jimmy Howard has faced the Preds this year as Chris Osgood has started both games previously this season. Howard has only played a portion of one game against the Preds in his career.
Likewise, Dan Ellis has not played against Detroit this season since Peka Rinne has gotten both starts. Ellis has had stellar games at times against the Wings which included some memorable playoff action two seasons ago.
Ellis carries a 2-2-1 regular season record against Detroit into tonight's game. Dan needs to recapture the magic against the Wings and cover the puck more instead of allowing rebounds that create additional chances for the opposition.
Improved Special Team Play...
The Predator's penalty kill has given up three goals in the last two games and the power play is now one for seventeen in their last six games. Over the long haul, the hockey gods will not let a team playing this poorly on special teams be successful at winning the number of games needed to make the playoffs.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass