PREDATORS (33-18-6) AT RED WINGS (39-17-2)
TV: NHLN-US (HD),FS-Tennessee, FS-Detroit+
LAST 10 : Nashville 6-2-2; Detroit 7-2-1
Season Series: The Red Wings have won two of the first three meetings, both by 4-1 scores. The first of those victories was on Nov.26 at Joe Louis Arena and was an early part of Detroit's new NHL record 21-game home winning streak. The other Red Wings triumph came in the Music City exactly one month later, a day after Christmas. Nashville's lone victory against the Wings this season was a 4-3 victory at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 15.
Big Story: Can Detroit maintain the kind of sustained, emotional effort it has shown in the past three home games - all while trying to tie and then break the NHL record for consecutive home victories? The Wings are bound to have a letdown game at some point on home ice, but when it happens is the mystery. Some signs point to this weekend, whether it's this game against a tough Nashville team or
Sunday's against recent-nemesis San Jose - which has eliminated the Wings in the Western Conference semifinal round each of the past two seasons.
Predators : Ryan Ellis made sure the misery for the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks continued on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, when he scored his third goal of the season with 5:42 left in the third period for a 3-2 win that ended Nashville's three-game losing skid. It also extended Chicago's winless streak to nine games and caused the Hawks to question what they needed to do in order to get a victory after feeling like they outplayed the Preds for most of the game. Once again, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne dazzled by making 30 saves and keeping Chicago at bay after Ellis' big goal to secure the win. Now the Preds head into the Motor City, where they've win three of the last five games dating back to last season.
"It's a big deal, obviously," Rinne said of winning games against Central Division opponents, which the Preds have done at a 13-2-2 clip this season. "It's division games and those points, really, they make a big difference and I think that's a reason for our separation in the standings right now. Those games have been really crucial for us, but it's not going to get any easier. We're going to face a tough team in Detroit."
Red Wings: The injuries are starting to pile up a little bit for Detroit, but the Wings have been lucky to get through Jimmy Howard's broken finger recovery mostly unscathed thanks to some stellar play by backup Joey MacDonald and some great defense in front of him. MacDonald nearly pitched a shutout in Detroit's record-setting 3-1 win against Dallas on Tuesday, allowing only Adam Burish's goal with 32.8 seconds remaining. The Wings have also gotten an offensive boost recently out of Henrik Zetterberg, who scored three goals in the last four games, but the Swedish star center will miss this game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Rookie forward Tomas Tatar was recalled from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and will join the fourth line, which means the usually veteran-heavy Wings will be flying with three rookies in the starting forward lineup - Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak being the other two.
"It's an opportunity," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We're going to bring up Tatar and put him in the lineup. He's been playing real well down there, the best player in Grand Rapids. We like to reward guys who are playing good."
Who's Hot: Rinne is 21-3-2 in his last 26 decisions and has 31 wins; he's one behind Howard for the League lead. MacDonald has won three straight games in net with a 1.72 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in six games since being recalled from Grand Rapids to replace Howard (broken finger).
Injury Report: Patric Hornqvist (upper body) missed Nashville's last game against Chicago and is unlikely to play against the Red Wings, while forward Brian McGrattan (upper body) was placed on injured reserve and hasn't played in four games. … Detroit's Danny Cleary (knee), Zetterberg (lower body) and Howard (broken index finger) are all out for this game, while forward Patrick Eaves (concussion symptoms after a broken jaw) is out indefinitely.
Stat Pack: Nashville is 21-10 when playing with one day's rest between games and just 5-10 when getting two days off between games, while the Red Wings are 13-17 with one day off and 6-4 when after a couple days of to recover.
Puck Drop: Eaves was injured in the Preds' last trip to Detroit on Nov.26 - a 4-1 Red Wings win - after a slap shot from the point by Nashville's Roman Josi hit him in the side of the head late in the third period. Eaves was taken off on a stretcher and diagnosed with a fractured jaw, which required surgery. The jaw is now healed, but concussion symptoms remain and Eaves is out indefinitely.
"He's had concussion-like symptoms, probably had a concussion," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said this week. "He's feeling better every day. He doesn't want to push it. I'm going to plan that he's not going to be ready to play this year, but I'm hoping he does play this year."