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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:48 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Babcock on Lidstrom's future: 'He's too good to quit'

NASHVILLE -- With Detroit facing elimination on Friday, coach Mike Babcock was asked once again if this could be the final game for defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, the seven-time Norris Trophy winner who will be 42 in a number of days.
 
First, Babcock was asked if Lidstrom is still bothered by an ankle injury that kept him sidelined late in the regular season.
 
"The great thing about that is you can ask Nick, so that gets me off the hook," he said. "… I think Nick Lidstrom retires when he thinks he's not a good player anymore, but I think he's been a pretty darn good player. I don't know what could possibly be more fun than playing hockey at a high level on a great team. And I know his wife, so she doesn't want him around, for sure. Why wouldn't you keep playing?"
 
Babcock was asked a follow-up.
 
"I say this every year so this is seven years for me I've answered this question," he said. "I always say the same thing: He's too good to quit."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:45 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Wings stress importance of second shots on Rinne

NASHVILLE -- From coach Mike Babcock to defenseman Brad Stuart to forwards Danny Cleary and Drew Miller, the Detroit Red Wings on Friday often discussed the need to get second shots on Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
 
Rinne stopped 81 of 84 shots in the Predators' two victories in Games 3 and 4 at Joe Louis Arena, and generally has the Red Wings searching for answers. Detroit has scored only eight goals in the four games.
 
The first goal in particular has been critical in this series, as the team scoring it has won every game. Cleary was asked if Nashville plays any differently when it has the lead.
 
"Yes and no," he said. "They're a really good defensive hockey team and they're disciplined. This is not a rush-chance opportunity series. There's no 2-on-1s. There's hardly any 3-on-2s. I mean, they've always got guys back and they're blocking everything and they've got like a wall built in front, and so we've got to come in from the sides. It's just a tight series. Right now we're a little stymied, for sure.”
 
Part of the problem in creating second chances, Cleary said, is that Rinne "catches everything" with his glove, so the Red Wings need to be mindful of keeping the puck away from his glove hand, which is easier said than done.
 
Babcock said the Red Wings "can't be impatient."
 
"I don't think we got too impatient last game at all," he said. "I thought we stuck with it. To me, we need some second chances on their goaltender. The puck's not coming off him very much because he catches a lot of things, so we've got to figure out a way to get some second chances and be determined and understand it's going to be tight-checking and there's not going to be a lot of room. ... We need to fight for seconds."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:14 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Projected Game 5 lineups

NASHVILLE -- Here's how the lineups project for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Red Wings and Predators from Bridgestone Arena:

PREDATORS

Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Yip - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith/Matt Halischuk
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Jack Hillen/Ryan Ellis
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

RED WINGS
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Danny Cleary
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi
Gustav Nyquist - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom
 
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Brad Stuart - Niklas Kronwall
Kyle Quincey - Jonathan Ericsson
 
Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 12:32 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Trotz rules Gill out for Game 5

NASHVILLE -- Predators coach Barry Trotz ruled defenseman Hal Gill out for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC).
 
With a win against the Red Wings, the Predators would advance to the Western Conference Semifinals for the second straight season.
 
Gill, the Preds' leader in blocked shots and in shorthanded time on ice, has yet to play in this series with a lower-body injury.
 
Gill participated in his first full practice on Thursday and took part in the team’s optional skate. Gill said he would be a game-time decision before Trotz ruled him out. Asked if he expected Gill to play, Trotz said, "No, I don't expect him to play tonight." Then, asked if Gill was out, Trotz responded with a simple "yes."
 
Earlier, Gill was asked if whether he plays depends on pain tolerance or risk of further injury. He responded by saying, "There's a lot of decisions to be made from coaching, the trainers to me. There's a lot of conversation going on right now. To take a page from [former Montreal coach] Jacques Martin, there's a process and we're going to stick with it."
 
That once again leaves either Jack Hillen or rookie Ryan Ellis to take Gill's place in the lineup. Hillen played in Games 1 and 2, Ellis in Games 3 and 4. Neither has averaged more than eight minutes per game.
 
One Nashville defenseman who goes about his game quietly and often gets overlooked is 36-year-old Francis Bouillon. Bouillon leads the series with a plus-5 rating while averaging 14:37, fifth among Preds' defensemen.
 
"I guess I'm lucky," Bouillon said. "[Goalie Pekka Rinne] saved me a few times. I try to play a good game defensively and there's a little bit of luck, too, and I didn't create much offensively, so sometimes it's being in the right place at the right moment, but, defensively, I try to play pretty hard in my own zone and do my best."
 
Trotz called the 5-foot-8, 198-pound Bouillon a "battler."
 
"You talk about a veteran, a veteran always has a lot of pride when it comes to the game and they always seem to elevate their game at playoff time," Trotz said. "Frankie is just one of those guys, he gives you everything he's got. He battles through everything. Pound for pound, he's as tough mentally and physically as anyone you're going to meet.
 
"He's had a real strong series and it's because he's got some veteran poise, some veteran diligence, if you will -- all those things that make you a good pro, and he knows the importance of each and every shift in the playoffs and he's really elevated his game."
 
Bouillon's plus/minus rating has benefitted from playing with defenseman Kevin Klein, one of the unlikely offensive heroes in this series, as Klein has two goals. The two have been paired together on-and-off for most of the last three seasons.
 
Over his final 13 games of the regular season, Bouillon scored four goals. In the previous 663 games in his career, Bouillon had scored 25 times.
 
"It was different a month ago, but now it's like the opposite," Bouillon said. "Kleier skates, shoots and I back him up."
 
Note: On Thursday in practice, rookie forward Craig Smith skated on the fourth line with center Paul Gaustad and wing Brandon Yip, leading to speculation he could play his first game of the series over Matt Halischuk. Trotz said Smith, who had 14 goals during the regular season, would bring speed and determination to the lineup if he plays. Trotz said both Smith and Colin Wilson would be ready if called upon.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:10 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Gill back at practice, status for Game 5 uncertain

NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Hal Gill participated in a full practice on Thursday for the first time in two weeks after suffering a lower-body injury, but his status for Game 5 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena remains up in the air.
 
Gill said he would speak to trainers later in the day to address the situation. Predators coach Barry Trotz said the team would know more on Friday.
 
With Gill out, the team's top defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber played more than 30 minutes apiece in the Preds' 3-1 win in Game 4 over Detroit. Trotz said he is not worried about Suter and Weber playing too many minutes, as "they're young," he said.
 
Gill was the team's shot-blocker and leader in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season. Jack Hillen played in the first two games of the series in Gill's spot and rookie Ryan Ellis played in Games 3 and 4, but neither has played more than 10 minutes in a game. Gill averaged 18:02 with Nashville during the regular season after being acquired in February from Montreal.
 
Nashville can close out the series with a win on Friday, as the Preds hold a 3-1 series lead.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:11 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Likely lineups for Wings, Predators

DETROIT -- Here are the lineups the Red Wings and Predators likely will use when they meet Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC):

PREDATORS
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Alexander Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - David Legwand - Brandon Yip

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Kevin Klein - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Forwards Jordin Tootoo, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson will be healthy scratches. Jack Hillen, who played the first two games in place of the injured Hal Gill, could replace Ellis, who made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 3. Gill (lower body) will not play in Game 4.

RED WINGS
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Jonathan Ericsson

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

Forwards Chris Conner, Jan Mursak, Jakub Kindl and Riley Sheahan all will be healthy scratches.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:05 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Wings keep Preds off their ping pong table

DETROIT -- One of the more popular side stories prior to Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) involves table tennis.

After "news" broke on Monday that Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi put the kibosh on a game of ping pong between Predators teammates Roman Josi and Brandon Yip at Joe Louis Arena, players and coaches from both teams fielded questions about it Tuesday.

The Red Wings had the tables brought in this season as a pre-game activity in the area located just outside the two locker rooms. Bertuzzi told the Detroit Free Press that he asked a security guard to prevent the Predators from playing.

Yip and Josi confirmed that's what happened and said they were surprised by such a big media flap about it -- including a bunch of online blog posts.

"It was a little funny," Yip said. "It's nothing to look too far into, I don't think. We just went out there to play and ... the security guard said we're not to play. We were a little disappointed, but we went back and did our normal routine. I don't think it will have any affect [on the game] ... except I got a little more TV time today."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked about it during his meeting with reporters and was told by a team spokesman prior to answering that the incident didn't happen.

"That's why stuff like that is rumors," he said, smiling. "You start that rumor. Lots of rumors going around ... when I'm bored I start them. Good job by you.''

Nashville coach Barry Trotz sounded just as amused by it.

"It really has no effect [on the game]," Trotz said. "If they want a ping pong table in Nashville, I'm more than willing to give them one. It's their toys. We have our toys, all those things, a ping pong table, our balls. We're OK. We've got a soccer ball. We have our things that we do. There's nothing really to it. That's their decision. It's their toy."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 1:26 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Red Wings need ice-cold Filppula to heat up

DETROIT -- While his season as a whole can be considered a success, the past month for Valtteri Filppula hasn't been pretty.

The 28-year old Detroit Red Wings forward has scored just one goal in the past 17 games dating to the regular season. He last found the back of the net March 17 at San Jose. He had career-highs of 23 goals, 43 assists and 66 points this season while shifting from center to left wing.

Through Detroit's first three Stanley Cup Playoffs games, however, Filppula has no goals and one assist. He's also taken just six shots on goal, including just two of the Red Wings' 43 in Game 3 on Sunday.

"You create chances to score, but at the end of the day, chances ... they don't count," Filppula said. "We have to find a way to score and hopefully we can do a better job."

The Red Wings have struggled scoring goals in the same timeframe that's seen Filppula's production fall off. They also find themselves down 2-1 in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators and could use an offensive outburst in Game 4 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"I feel like we've been getting some chances, for sure," Filppula said. "[Sunday's] game, we had a lot of good chances and couldn't score. It's tough, obviously. You hope to get more chances but their goalie is playing really well, too. The more chances, hopefully the better luck you have that some go in."

In the regular season, Filppula led Detroit in goals scored against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne this season, with four in six games.

"It's a little different," Filppula said of the postseason. "Playoff hockey is always different. There's less room and you don't get as many good chances as you do during the regular season. It's tighter. The biggest thing is getting second shots and second chances and getting goals that way."

Still, the Wings know that when Filppula's firing more pucks at the net, the better it is for their scoring chances.

"I think we saw that [this season] when he was scoring some goals, he was shooting the puck a little more, driving the net, and [that's] something [he] can do an even better job at," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It would help [if Filppula heats up]. You're always looking at one player to be that difference and I think Fil can be that difference for us."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 1:07 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Gill improving but out for Game 4 vs. Detroit

DETROIT -- Defenseman Hal Gill will not play for the Nashville Predators on Tuesday in Game 4 of the team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

Gill went through Nashville's morning skate wearing skate guards, which was the first time he'd done gone through a game-day skate since incurring a lower-body injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

Gill hasn't played in the series and also missed the season finale in Colorado. The good news for the Preds -- who lead the series 2-1 -- is that Gill appears to be making good progress, according to Nashville coach Barry Trotz.

"He's improving every day, made some real good improvement," Trotz said of Gill. "He’s not in [Tuesday], but really good improvement. I thought he looked very good, actually."

Gill declined comment through a team spokesman. Whenever he does return, the Preds' penalty killing should get a big boost -- literally. The 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill -- who was acquired from Montreal in a deal a week before the trade deadline -- takes up a lot of space in front of the net where opposing forwards like to camp.

"That's a specialty for him," Trotz said of Gill's penalty-killing ability. "He's a big man. It's like parking a small car in front of the net sometimes when he's out there."

It also will provide a chance for the Predators' top defense duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to catch a breather. With Gill sidelined, they've been spending a lot of time killing penalties.

"They do a real good job and I think [Kevin Klein] gets underrated on that," Trotz said. "[Suter and Weber] are always the big names, but [Klein and Roman Josi] do a good job, too. They've done a really good job to this point, but I'd be excited to get Hal back, because that's really where he excels -- especially this time of year."

Trotz did say there will be a lineup switch for the Preds in Game 4, but declined to reveal it. Rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis stayed out on the ice for the skate a lot longer than the defenseman he replaced in Game 3, Jack Hillen, which could be a clue.

Hillen played for Gill in the first two games of the series.

Forward Brandon Yip also is expected to draw into Nashville's lineup, at right wing of the fourth line in place of Jordin Tootoo, while David Legwand might start the game at fourth-line center instead of being in the middle of the second line.
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:00 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Franzen unapologetic for incident with Preds bench

DETROIT -- Johan Franzen is clearly unhappy with the officiating in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series between his Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators.

Prior to Detroit's 3-2 loss on Sunday in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings power forward chastised the calls and non-calls from Game 1 and Game 2, in which he says some stick work in the first game and an elbow in the second left him with the black eye he's currently sporting.

Franzen then picked up a pair of slashing penalties in the second period on Sunday, with the second one leading to a 4-on-4 situation that eventually got the Wings their first goal by Pavel Datsyuk.

Franzen went to check Ryan Suter near the Predators bench and only got a piece of him before slamming into the boards right in front of the Nashville bench. Predators center David Legwand was then spotted holding Franzen's sweater with a tug -- which prompted the Red Wings forward to yank free and drive his stick toward Legwand on the bench in a spearing motion.

Did the heat of the moment cause his temper to boil over into making a bad decision?

“No," Franzen said. "He held me. If he does it again, I’m going to do it again. He got called for it and I’m happy for that. We're a good team 4-on-4, so if he's going to do that again, I'm happy to do it. Maybe I'll drag him out onto the ice and sit on him, I don't know ... maybe do something else."

Franzen said that by jabbing his stick in retaliation, he feels that led officials to look into what happened to start the incident in the first place -- which resulted in a bench interference minor called against Nashville.

"The ref wouldn't have called him if I wouldn't have done that," Franzen said. "He needed help from his [linesmen] and his partner to figure that out, so that would never have been called otherwise."

It also happened to create 4-on-4 play, which has shown in this series to help Detroit's top offensive stars -- like Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg -- create more scoring chances.

"I would take that any day," Franzen said. "If I could get [Datsyuk] and [Zetterberg] out there playing 4-on-4 instead of 5-on-5, you'd play like that all day if you could. [There's] a lot more room to create stuff on."

Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom doesn't necessarily agree with his Swedish countryman's logic. Lidstrom talked at length on Monday about the Red Wings not taking bad penalties and putting themselves at a disadvantage either in numbers or taking key players off the ice for however long the infraction is worth.

Lidstrom was asked about Franzen's incident with the Nashville bench and said it was a good example of what the Wings cannot do in the remaining games of this series.

"That's where you have to try and stay disciplined, and it's hard sometimes," Lidstrom said. "It's very hard. You're in the heat of the moment and your heart rate is going [really fast]. You're so into the game, so it's hard sometimes. But that's when you get sucked into those kinds of penalties. You can still react to it, but you have to be aware of it and you have to have that in the back of your mind that you can't do certain things now."

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