Red Wings try to track down Predators for fifth
Saturday, 04.03.2010 / 2:00 PMPREDATORS (45-28-6) at RED WINGS (41-23-13)
Nashville 7-2-1; Detroit 9-0-1
Sixth and final meeting of the regular season between these Central Division rivals. The Predators won the first matchup but the Red Wings have taken four straight, three of which were decided either in overtime or the shootout. That includes a 1-0 win last Saturday in Nashville when Niklas Kronwall
scored in the 11th round of the penalty-shot tiebreaker.
The Predators have never finished a season with more points than the Red Wings, but they could take a step toward accomplishing that feat with a win Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. The teams are currently battling for the fifth seed in the Western Conference, with Nashville leading by a point at the start of play Saturday. The Predators have only three games remaining, while the Red Wings still have five.
It had been a long time since Nashville scored a goal on home ice -- 191 minutes and 44 seconds, to be exact -- before the Predators scored three straight Thursday and rallied for a 3-2 win over the Blues. Patric Hornqvist
took over the team scoring lead by assisting on goals from Dustin Boyd, Colin Wilson
and Steve Sullivan, the latter of whom said the Predators are intent on getting their game to the top level over the next week.
"We're not looking at it saying, 'You need so many points to get in, let's just get to it,'" Sullivan said. "We want to make sure we're playing the best hockey going into the playoffs. If we're just trying to sneak in, it'll be a quick first-round exit, and that's not what we want."
Since blowing a third-period lead on home ice and losing 4-2 to Calgary on March 9, leaving its hopes for a 19th consecutive playoff berth seriously in doubt, Detroit has gained at least a point in 11 straight games (10-0-1). Now the only question is how high the Red Wings can climb before the regular season ends. Their 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday allowed them to keep pace with the Predators heading into Saturday.
"We'd like to be in position to go past them if we possibly could," coach Mike Babcock said. "We just want to keep getting better. To win at playoff time you've got to be patient, you've got to be relentless."
Hornqvist has two goals and four assists in the last five games for the Predators. Pekka Rinne
has stopped 98 of 102 shots (.961 save percentage) over his last three starts. … Johan Franzen
has three goals and four assists in the last four games for the Red Wings. Pavel Datsyuk
and Tomas Holmstrom
each have two goals and four assists in the last four games. Jimmy Howard
, who has started 24 consecutive games, has given up two goals or less nine times in the current 10-0-1 run.
Nashville forward Jason Arnott (head) and defenseman Denis Grebeshkov (lower body) are out indefinitely. Forward Jordin Tootoo
(undisclosed) is day-to-day. … Detroit forward Dan Cleary has been out with a groin injury while forward Kirk Maltby
is out for the season following shoulder surgery.
Hornqvist leads the Predators with 30 goals and 51 points, but the Red Wings have held him off the scoresheet in all five games this season. … Datsyuk has six points in the series.
"We just control our own destiny here," said Detroit right wing Todd Bertuzzi
, who scored the game-winner against Columbus. "The dressing room's pretty confident, we're playing well and we're doing the right things. We're winning those games that are close, we're grinding them out. We're doing stuff that you've got to do in order to win in the playoffs."