As they aim for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators can't ask for any more than they're getting out of goalie Dan Ellis.
Ellis will look to continue an impressive shutout streak on Sunday when the Predators visit the Detroit Red Wings, who may have a chance to secure their fourth consecutive President's Trophy.
After stopping all 79 shots he faced during a home-and-home sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets this week, Ellis has gone more than eight periods since allowing his last goal.
He had a career-high 43 saves in a 2-0 win over Columbus on Friday, when Jan Hlavac scored the game-winner in the second period.
"We're very confident with him the last couple of games," Nashville forward Radek Bonk said of Ellis. "Over 40 shots and two shutouts - it's just unbelievable."
|Nashville Predators' goalie Dan Ellis has not allowed a goal in over eight consecutive periods of play. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)|
he 170-minute, 18-second shutout streak has reduced the rookie's goals-against average to 2.32, and he has six shutouts in just 34 starts this season. He's been at his best in March, with a 7-4-0 record and a 1.83 GAA.
"I hope it's not a peak, that there's still higher to go," Ellis said. "I just want to try to help this team to get into the playoffs. All we can do is control the games we have ahead of us. We have four more games and we have to win more than Vancouver does."
The Predators (39-31-8) are tied with the Canucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and each team has four games remaining. Nashville, however, holds a key tiebreaker with one more win than Vancouver. The Canucks host Calgary Sunday.
If the Predators can earn the No. 8 seed in the West, they're likely to face the Red Wings (51-20-7) in the first round.
Detroit, which beat Nashville in six games in the opening round in 2004, has a five-point lead over second-place San Jose with four games remaining, and can clinch the President's Trophy as the regular-season points leader on Sunday with a win and a Sharks loss against Phoenix.
|The Detroit Red Wings can clinch the President's Trophy as the regular-season points leader with a win today and a San Jose Sharks loss. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)|
The Red Wings inched closer to that distinction on Friday, when they erased a two-goal deficit behind a pair of Johan Franzen goals in the final seven minutes before losing 4-3 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues.
"We were hopeful tonight that with Mac coming back, that would give us some energy," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Sometimes these games, you're not as pumped up maybe as you should be. You can talk about it until you're blue in the face, but that's life."
Detroit remained without goalie Dominik Hasek, who has missed the last two games with the flu. It's unclear if he'll play Sunday.
Nashville can win the season series over the Red Wings with a regulation victory. The Predators are 3-3-1 against Detroit this season, but lost the most recent meeting, 6-3 at home on March 20.
Ellis, who had allowed just three total goals in two previous starts against Detroit this season, was pulled from that game after allowing two goals on 13 shots in just more than 24 minutes.