With the exception of the Nashville Predators' (28-19-7) 3-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings (32-15-6) last Saturday, the team has not played well recently. In the Preds last six games they have gone 1-4-1, and with last night's Sharks' win over the Caps, have lost their grip on fourth place in the Western Conference.
Tonight's game will be the Predators last regular season visit to the Joe Louis Arena this yearm splitting the prior two games in Detroit. The Preds fell to the Wings 5-2 on October 30th in a game that had the Preds basically playing with 17 skaters. On December 8, the Preds beat the Wings 3-2 in a game featuring strong defense and goaltending.
The Wings will have a couple of key players back tonight that were not on the ice in last week's meeting. Pavel Datsyuk returned to the ice on Monday against the Rangers and had a goal and an assist. Tomas Holmstrom may also make a return in tonight's game after missing nine games with a broken hand. Valtteri Filppula was injured Monday and is out.
Another big change will be that Jimmy Howard (26-9-3, 2.83, .906) is expected to be in net for the Wings. Pekka Rinne (18-14-5, 2.11, .929) should be in net for Nashville.
After Monday's loss against Edmonton, the Predators are now seven points behind Detroit once again in the chase for the Central Division title. Tonight's game is critical in the Preds' quest to overtake Detroit and get a top three seed in the playoffs. The teams have two more games remaining in Nashville.
After tonight's game, the Predators will return home to prepare for Colorado who will be in town on Saturday night, possibly with Peter Forsberg in the lineup.
Other Predator previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, The Tennessean, Hockey Night in Nashville, and Predators.com.
For previews from the Motor City, check out MLive, the Detroit Free Press, Winging It in Motown, and the Detroit News.
Yesterday's RLD Hockey Radio show was a good one. Ryan Porth had Sharks play by play man Randy Hahn and Mike Colligan from The Hockey Writers as guests. There was plenty of Sharks and Pens talk including where the teams stood and possible trade deadline acquisitions. We also got the latest on the Pittsburgh injury situation. Check it out in the player below.
In Pred Nation...
Bryan Mullen caught Barry Trotz in a bad mood yesterday and he called out a few top players by name for not producing. Trotz also want the Preds to shoot the puck more and with purpose.
David Boclair has more on the Predators focus of scoring three goals per game.
Dirk Hoag has a in depth look at the stats behind the Predators' struggling power play.
Jeremy Gover looks at the critical words from Barry Trotz and Pekka Rinne on the horrible call on the Oiler's third goal on Monday. The best defense for a fine in this case was that Trotz was 100% in the right.
AJ was bewildered in his Tuesday AJenda as to who was playing on Monday Night at the Bridgestone Arena.
The Predatorial debuted last night with a suggestions of what Barry Trotz should tell a few Predators. Then a second post digs deeper into the Preds' issues
James O'Brien looks at the Central Division at PHT.
Colin Wilson ditched the mullet.
Fans of Nashville's Big Ben now have a fan page on Facebook. Ben and his cohorts have big plans for Saturday.
Kelly from Confessions of a Predators Fanatic says the Preds need to order new sheets.
The Preds will honor the Columbia Central Lions football team for winning the state championship on February 19th.
Around the NHL...
After seeing Marc Savard at the news conference on Monday, Ryan Porth takes a look at whether Pittsburgh (and the NHL) can afford to bring Sidney Crosby back this year and risk further injury.
Drew Stafford had his third hat trick in 19 games as Buffalo came back and destroyed Tampa 7-4 lat night.
Matt Cooke is headed for more supplementary discipline after his hit on Fedor Tyutin. Hawgs38 has more on Cooke at View From My Seats.
Ken Campbell's latest on the Hart Trophy watch has a pretty good top ten but I wouldn't have Stamkos in fourth. He has to be a 1 or 1A.
Steve Lapore gets a guest spot at Islanders' Point Blank to discuss their TV ratings.
The speculation about Sidney Crosby's injury continues to build and now Ray Shero is responding.
Stu Hackel is hearing a new NHL TV deal for four to seven years with NBC/Versus is likely to ne announced soon.
Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts piles on Phil Kessel, a popular pastime. He also points out that Ray Emery likes watching Pekka Rinne play.
Five for Howling has some good suggestions for changes to the overtime period.
How can the goalie situation get any worse for the Islanders? Last night, Kevin Poulin had to be helped off the ice giving 6'6" Finlander Mikko Koskinen his first NHL start. There was talk of Mike Dunham or Garth Snow suiting up as the back-up but Joel Martin was called up from Bridgeport and made it before the end of the game.
The San Jose Sharks went to the National Archives for their team building exercise on their day off on Monday. I have never heard of the contingency "War Plan Crimson" that was designed to invade Canada if it had become necessary.
Down Goes Brown looks at Gary Bettman's Super Bowl party that had an impressive guest list.
Odds and Ends...
More news is out about this year's Podcamp Nashville on March 26, Check it out,
Another private company has jumped into the competition to build commercial rockets to replace NASA at the Cape in Florida. This is a real tribute to free market economics. Had NASA operated in this manner, they would still be viable.
There's nothing quite like a cockfight gone bad when a bird kills a fight promoter. This is better than "man bites dog."
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass