The Nashville Predators finally figured out how to beat Detroit in the teams' last meeting on Thanksgiving. They'll hope the formula works again on Monday when they try to slow down the NHL-leading Red Wings in Nashville.
The Predators (14-11-2) beat the Red Wings 3-2 on Nov. 22, ending an overall five-game losing streak in the series. However, the victory was Nashville's fourth in its last six home games against Detroit (21-6-2).
"The key to beating Detroit is having the right mentality," Predators coach Barry Trotz said after last month's contest. "They are so skilled. They move the puck so effectively and efficiently from the back and through the neutral zone.
"If you just want to play a very safe game and watch them throw the puck around, then I think your team is going to have a long night. If you participate and play hard against them you will have more success against them. It is not the total key, but it does help to use their approach against them."
Executing that game plan could be easier said than done this time around. The Red Wings have won six straight games - one shy of their season high - and have scored at least four goals in all but one of those victories.
Detroit is coming off Sunday's 5-2 win over the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. Datsyuk and Holmstrom, who form the Red Wings' dominant first line along with Henrik Zetterberg, both scored in the game's final minutes.
Zetterberg (41 points), who had an assist, Datsyuk (35), and Holmstrom (28) are the team's three leading scorers. However, the key goals on Sunday came from Andreas Lilja - who broke a second-period tie - Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen.
Lilja's goal was just his second of the season and fourth in two-plus years with the Red Wings. Franzen's goal was his third of the season and Filppula netted his fifth.
"It's 82 games, you've got to help the first line," said Detroit right wing Jiri Hudler, who had three assists. "They score a lot of goals, but we're going to need everybody."
Goalie Dominik Hasek made 15 saves to win his third straight start after dropping three in a row. He has yielded just three goals during his winning streak.
The Predators, meanwhile, won for the third time in five games on Saturday, beating Anaheim 4-2. Despite being credited with just 3:45 of ice time, Jordin Tootoo managed to post a "Gordie Howe hat trick" with a goal, assist and a fight and extended his career high with his sixth goal.
"He didn't get a lot of ice time, but put forth a strong effort," Trotz told the Predators' official Web site. "He continues to show that maybe a bigger role and more ice time is in the future for him."
Defenseman Ryan Suter added his fourth goal for Nashville, which had managed only three total goals while dropping its previous two games. Vernon Fiddler returned after missing two games with a strained groin and had two assists.
"All good teams have good balance from their forwards and defense in scoring," Suter said. "This was a big game for us, because we lost two in a row, and we didn't want to lose three in a row."
|Mar 30 '08||NSH 0 at DET 1 - OT||J. Franzen|
|Mar 20 '08||DET 6 at NSH 3||J. Franzen|
|Mar 15 '08||NSH 3 at DET 1||R. Peverley|
|Mar 09 '08||NSH 3 at DET 4||J. Franzen|
|Feb 12 '08||DET 2 at NSH 4||J. Dumont|
|Dec 10 '07||DET 2 at NSH 1||V. Filppula|
|Nov 22 '07||DET 2 at NSH 3||R. Bonk|
|Nov 07 '07||NSH 2 at DET 3 - SO||P. Datsyuk|