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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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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:55 PM

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

Stuart says experience key to overcoming mistakes

DETROIT -- Brad Stuart isn't getting off the kind of start to these Stanley Cup Playoffs that he'd hoped to, but he's not going to dwell on the negatives that have happened to him or the Detroit Red Wings thus far.

Detroit trails its Western Conference Quarterfinal series 2-1 to the Nashville Predators, and every game has finished with a 3-2 score -- including Sunday's Game 3, in which Stuart was on the ice for two of the goals allowed. In all, he's also been on the ice for six of the eight goals Nashville has scored so far and is tied with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin with a League-worst minus-4 rating.

"This time of year, any type of mistake can be the one that costs you the game," Stuart said on Monday. "The players that dwell on that are the ones that kind of tighten up and don't play their game. The other ones, who just go out and play, are the ones who have success this time of year. Mistakes are going to be made. There's no question. It's how you respond and how you deal with it that's important."

Stuart said he and his teammates who've been part of some mistakes in the first three games should be able to brush them off -- especially with Detroit's lineup featuring a lot of playoff-savvy veterans.

"This time of year the little things get talked about -- every little play, every little mistake could be the difference," Stuart said. "So, if you've had experience in dealing with that and know how to put it behind you, it's a lot more effective than dwelling on something and letting it affect the rest of your game."

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:55 PM

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

Lidstrom paired with White once more for Red Wings

DETROIT -- It happened during Game 3 Sunday of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock put 41-year-old star captain Nicklas Lidstrom back together with Ian White as the Wings' top defense pair, which had been the case for most of the season. After Lidstrom was injured blocking a shot and missed 11 games in March, White was forced to work with others on the blue line and wasn't a shoe-in to work with Lidstrom after he returned.

In fact, Babcock had been using the bigger Jonathan Ericsson with Lidstrom as the top pair after he also returned from a lengthy injury. That changed mid-game Sunday, though, with White taking the right point beside Lidstrom on the left once again -- which also was how they lined up during Monday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.

Babcock, however, cautioned against trying to predict how his lineup will look before or during the game.

"We like Ericsson and Lidstrom together on match-ups, too," Babcock said. "When we need the puck moved a little crisper … we thought [White] was having a good game."

Prior to Lidstrom's injury, he and White had plus/minus ratings in the upper 20s and were sitting near the top of the League in that stat.

In other apparent lineup switches Monday, veteran Danny Cleary worked as a top-six forward with star center Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen on the second line. That moved Todd Bertuzzi to the third line at right wing to work with center Justin Abdelkader and rookie Gustav Nyquist.

"All these questions you're asking about -- who's playing with who -- I'm going to go to the game and I'm going to watch, and whoever plays the best is going to play the most," Babcock said. "It doesn't matter to me what their name is.''
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:51 PM

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

Red Wings hope alarm clock rings for Game 4

DETROIT -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's most common terminology for getting off to a good start in games is "starting on time," but lately his team seems to be starting games by repeatedly hitting the snooze button.

Detroit has fallen behind in eight of its last night games, including the regular season and two of the first three games in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators. As a result, the Wings find themselves down 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4 Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), a building where they lost 3-2 in Game 3 on Sunday after falling behind 2-0 before making a furious effort to come back.

"I thought someone told me it was like 80 percent of the time during the regular season when you score first you win, so I don't think that's any different now," Babcock said after Monday's practice. "It's a priority for everyone. You want to get started on time. We lost the first four faceoffs last night. That led to forechecks … any way you look at it, that leads to momentum. That probably leads to you taking a penalty and more momentum, so you got to start on time for sure and it's a priority each and every night.''

The Predators owned the faceoff battle early in Game 3, winning 75 percent of the draws through the first 15 minutes of the game and taking a 1-0 lead on Shea Weber's power-play goal just 2:48 into the game.

The Red Wings again struggled with committing early penalties in that game and it wound up costing them with not only Weber's goal, but lost puck possession and offensive flow. Johan Franzen was called for two slashing penalties in the second period, with the second one leading to a five-on-three Nashville power play.

The Red Wings killed it and actually gained some momentum from it, but that's not the ideal way Babcock wants his team to get its offense going -- especially playing without injured penalty-killing forwards Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm.

"When I look at the tape those are both penalties," Babcock said of the infractions by Franzen and Kyle Quincey to create Nashville's 23-second two-man advantage. "Stay out of the box. Real simple. It takes a ton of energy to play four against five. Normally we could have [Eaves and Helm]. They eat up a ton of those minutes, so now [Pavel Datsyuk] and [Henrik Zetterberg] are doing it. I'd rather have them shooting it in the net than keeping it out of the net, so it's a waste of energy just because I was careless with my stick. But the great thing about this stuff is we control all of it and we're going to fix it.''

If they don't, it could be more of the same as the two losses to the Predators -- both of which saw Detroit fall behind early while trying to find its footing following multiple penalties. That's why with a pivotal Game 4 on tap Tuesday, the Red Wings really are focusing on hearing the alarm this time.

"Both teams right now have teams that can really frustrate the opposing team [with a lead]," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It seems like right now, whoever scores first has the momentum throughout the game."
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:32 PM

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

Predators playing with lineup decisions

DETROIT -- Despite winning the third game of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday and taking a 2-1 series lead, Nashville coach Barry Trotz appeared to send a message in Monday's practice.

David Legwand, who had been centering the Predators' second line, was dropped to the fourth unit, with Matt Halischuk and Brandon Yip, with Nick Spaling moving to center of the second line, with Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov.

Forward Jordin Tootoo, who played his first game of the series Sunday, also appears to be out of the mix for Game 4 Tuesday in Detroit (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC).

"We might just look to change things a little bit, a little different plan," Trotz said.
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:30 PM

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

Preds getting good production from their blue line

DETROIT -- Coming into this Western Conference Quarterfinal series, one of the key areas between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators was on the back end.

Both teams tout active, productive two-way defense corps led by stars in the top pairing. So far, though, it's been the Predators receiving the bigger edge from their blue line. Nashville has gotten three goals and two assists from its defense, led by captain Shea Weber's two goals, while Detroit has gotten just one goal, by Ian White, and three assists.

It hasn't just been offensively, however. Weber and Ryan Suter are logging a lot of minutes without injured veteran Hal Gill playing, and the second two pairings also have contributed big plays and points.

"We try and chip in whenever we can," said Kevin Klein, who had a goal and an assist in Game 3, and also saved a sure game-tying goal by deflecting a shot with the shaft of his stick. "Obviously [Suter and Weber] carry most of the load offensively. They create so many opportunities while playing solid defense. They're two of the best defensemen in the world and we're lucky to have them."

Not just for the obvious reasons, either.

"It's nice for the next four or five guys to just fly under the radar and do our thing and let them get all the praise," Klein said. "It's good. It keeps the pressure off the young guys, too."

Star goalie Pekka Rinne helps the Predators' defense as well, but said Monday that it's a two-way street -- especially in Nashville's defense-oriented system.

"They've been our backbone for a long, long time and they're always there for us," Rinne said of his defensemen. "They're creating offense as well as making a lot of great defensive plays and blocking shots and giving our forwards pucks at full speed for good breakouts and all that stuff. It's a really big part of our team."
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 4:26 PM

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

Gill skates with Preds, still day-to-day

DETROIT -- Hal Gill skated in a full team practice Monday, the first time the Nashville Predators defenseman has done that since sustaining a lower-body injury blocking a shot in the second-to-last game of the regular season.

The 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill -- who was acquired in February for his postseason experience and penalty-killing ability -- skated for about 30 minutes before leaving the ice at Joe Louis Arena prior to drills that involved more contact.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Gill is feeling better, but didn't shed much light on whether Gill will play in Game 4 of the Predators' Western Conference Quarterfinals series with the Detroit red Wings on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC).

"He'll be just day-to-day and we'll see where he is [Tuesday]," Trotz said. "He said he felt a lot better. I said, 'Don't push it too hard.' He was fine. He actually stayed out there for quite a while."

Gill has missed the first three playoff games, plus the last game of the regular season, with the injury. Gill didn't speak with reporters following practice, but his teammates said they were hoping to get him back in the lineup for a pivotal game in the series, which Nashville leads 2-1.

"Hopefully he's feeling pretty good and he can get back in there and play for us soon," Predators center Mike Fisher said. "We're hoping."

When Gill was on the ice he was paired with Jack Hillen, while Francis Bouillon was teamed with rookie Ryan Ellis, who filled in for Gill in Game 3 Sunday. Kevin Klein and rookie Roman Josi worked Monday as Nashville's second pairing, behind the top duo of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 7:22 PM

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

Tough-luck day for rookie Emmerton

DETROIT -- Just one game after scoring his first career goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help his team get a win, Detroit Red Wings rookie Cory Emmerton sat at his locker stall on Sunday afternoon soaking in a very different feeling.

The Red Wings lost Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Nashville Predators 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena and Emmerton wound up being the only guy on his team not to record a shot on goal.

Detroit launched a whopping 45 shots on goal, had 19 others blocked and missed the net 15 times, but it was a play by Nashville's Kevin Klein in the third that had Emmerton shaking his head a little bit.

Emmerton was about to cap a rush early in the third by putting home a rebound of Drew Miller's shot into a wide open net when Klein somehow blocked the shot from the low slot with just the shaft of his stick at the last second.

"We had a good breakout there, I tried to beat my guy up the ice and [Miller] did a good job," Emmerton said. "It was a tight spot to make a pass, so he passed up the pass and the puck went off the pads and I just tried to wire it. But the D-man just kind of did like a spin or something with his stick and I don't know how, but I hit him right in the middle of the shaft. It's unbelievable, but it's a tough break."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 7:20 PM

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

Wings again unable to stay out of the box

DETROIT -- It's become a constant mantra now for the Detroit Red Wings, who've suddenly become prone to taking penalties in their first three games of a Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinal series against Nashville.

Detroit has committed 20 penalties, served 43 minutes in the penalty box and given the Predators a whopping 16 power plays already -- including a costly one by Drew Miller just 1:35 into Sunday's 3-2 Game 3 loss at Joe Louis Arena.

Miller was called for goaltender interference on a one-man rush after it appeared he tried to stop and was nudged into Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.

"I for sure bumped into him, but it's not on purpose," said Miller, who went to the box and watched Shea Weber put the Preds up 1-0 at 2:48 of the first on Nashville's first power-play goal of the series. "It's skating as fast as I can down the ice to try to get to the puck and then shoot it at the net. So, I don't know if I was pushed from behind a little bit or what, or hit him hard. I couldn't even tell you."

Regardless of intent, it was just the start of another penalty-filled game for the Red Wings -- who wound up getting whistled for six infractions overall. Detroit finished the regular season behind only Nashville as the second least penalized team in the NHL, but suddenly has an issue with parading to the box.

It's starting to eat at the Red Wings, too -- whether they're taking their frustrations out on the calls or themselves.

"You've got to be more aware, but you can't use your stick, you can't tug someone [and] you can't, you know, interfere with someone," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "You've got to be a lot smarter and you've got to think about it, too. Sometimes you've got to take a penalty to stop the scoring chance, but just be more aware of what they're calling out there."

What the officials have called, however, is starting to be a touchy subject in the Detroit locker room. Several Red Wings players were asked leading questions about the officiating in the series overall, but none really took the bait a day after Johan Franzen had some harsh comments about it.

Franzen was also the recipient of two slashing calls on Sunday, with the first one leading to a Nashville 5-on-3 situation for almost half a minute in the second period.

"The regular season, we're not really that kind of team," Henrik Zetterberg said. "All of a sudden in the playoffs we get a lot of penalties. [The] PK's been good, but we knew it [wouldn't] last forever. They've got a good power play. If you keep giving them chances, they will eventually score."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 7:17 PM

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

Wings continue to fall behind

DETROIT -- It's a disturbing trend that can't be ignored when talking about the Detroit Red Wings.

Including the final six games of the regular season plus their first three Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinal series contests, the Red Wings have fallen behind eight times and had to fight their way back.

It happened again on Sunday against the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of Detroit's opening-round series and led to a 3-2 loss -- the same score as the first two games. The Wings also fell behind in Game 1 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena and were scrambling late trying to tie it.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said a big issue related to the trend is happening in the faceoff circle, where the Red Wings were beaten soundly in the first period on Sunday.

"I thought we had to win faceoffs off the start, we were 0-for-4 in our first faceoffs, so they got on top of us," Babcock said. "We'd like to do a better job in the faceoff circle. The team that wins the draw, ends with the forecheck and gets on top of the other team, so that's something we'd like to do better."

Plus, there's the whole matter of actually playing against somebody. The Predators are also adept at sitting on leads, which is what happened Sunday after Shea Weber potted a power-play goal 2:48 into the game and Kevin Klein scored early in the second for a 2-0 lead.

"The thing I find is the other team is trying, too," Babcock said. "You're trying to get off to a good start, they're trying to get off to a good start. They got the power play early and made us pay."

Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom agreed with his coach and said that continually chasing the lead is no way to win in the postseason.

"It's so much harder to score those goals [to tie it] and get those chances in the playoffs," he said. "They make it harder to get in front of the net. It just shows how playoff hockey is so different than the regular season."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:36 PM

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

Ellis latest to fill in for injured Gill

DETROIT -- The Nashville Predators won a hard-fought 3-2 game at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon and did it with a pair of rookie defensemen on the back end.

Ryan Ellis joined fellow rookie Roman Josi in the starting lineup for Game 3 of a Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series between the Predators and Detroit Red Wings -- which was his NHL playoffs debut.

Josi played in the first two games, while Ellis replaced Jack Hillen on Sunday in a continuing effort to replace veteran defenseman Hal Gill -- who missed his third playoff game and fourth game overall with a lower-body injury that happened blocking a shot in the second to last game of the regular season.

Ellis played just 7:50, but delivered three hits and had one of 19 blocked shots for the Preds.

"I was a little nervous," Ellis said. "It's quick out there, a faster pace than a regular game. It's nice to win. Whether it be big or small, it's better to win."

Like Josi, Ellis also made his NHL debut this season facing the Red Wings.

"It’s definitely nice to make the debut here," said Ellis, who played junior hockey just across the Detroit River for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. "It would have been nice to play the first two, but whatever the team has to do to win. I’m just here to be a part of that."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz was just glad the talented rookie blueliner got his playoff debut out of the way.

"I thought he played pretty well," Trotz said. "He’s a young guy playing in 'The Joe.' I know he's from across the river, so I know he's very familiar with 'The Joe' and the atmosphere. I thought he played pretty well. He's one of the most intelligent players you'll come across. More than anything, he's a winner. He's been a winner at every level. I was real happy for his first game. I know he was excited, but I don't think he gets too rattled. He was very composed."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:35 PM

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

Klein steps up in Preds' Game 3 win


DETROIT
-- Kevin Klein's haircut had been garnering more media attention lately than his play, but the Mohawk styling atop his head took a big back seat on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

Klein scored a goal, added an assist and saved a sure goal by Detroit Red Wings rookie Cory Emmerton in the Nashville Predators' big 3-2 victory in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series with the Detroit Red Wings.

Klein's goal, just the second playoff marker of his career, came just 3:50 into the second period and put the Preds up 2-0 to quiet a raucous pro-Wings crowd. Maybe more impressive was the way he scored it.

After Detroit's Brad Stuart created a delayed penalty situation, Klein took a short pass at the Red Wings blue line and blew past Stuart into the slot for a wrist shot that beat Howard high to the top right corner of the net.

"I don't know what I was really doing there," Klein said. "It's one of those plays where you just kind of read and react, and [Erat] gave me a nice pass there. It was nice to make a move and go in and score, get the boys fired up a little bit. It was nice to pot that one. When I got in alone, I saw the top was open a little bit, and I happened to execute it."

He also happened to come up with the quote of the day to sum it up.

"I like to step up and show my offensive talent once a year," said Klein, who scored four goals and added 17 assists in 66 games this season. "That’s about it."

Klein also blocked a shot from close range off the rush by Emmerton to save a sure goal, using just the shaft of his stick. Emmeton had pounced on a rebound of Drew Miller's shot that ricocheted off Pekka Rinne's pad to the low slot -- leaving the Preds goalie out of position.

Klein then picked up a secondary assist on Sergei Kostitsyn's goal with just 3:30 left to play in the third that made it 3-1 Nashville.

"Kevin was really good," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He really stepped up. He was real strong. The second goal was huge. He looked like a 40-goal scorer jumping up there. He roofed it. I thought it was a real defining moment."

As for the shot block, Rinne was relieved and impressed.

"That was awesome," Rinne said. "He's done that a lot this year. I guess he has a little bit of goalie instinct, but he made a huge block ... really saved a for-sure goal. That's obviously one of the key plays."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 6:32 PM

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

Weber has big game for Preds in hostile atmosphere

DETROIT -- Shea Weber knew that he'd be the subject of jeers on Sunday in an arena filled with angry Detroit Red Wings fans.

Weber's altercation with Henrik Zetterberg just after the final horn of Game 1 in Nashville's Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series earned him a fine by the League, but Wings fans got a chance to let him hear it in Game 3 on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.

Weber was booed virtually every time he touched the puck, and he touched it a lot while playing 27:06 and spreading it out over a whopping 33 shifts.

It didn't matter, as Weber scored the game's first goal on a power play, launched four shots on goal, delivered three hits and blocked three shots to earn praise from Nashville coach Barry Trotz after the Preds' narrow 3-2 victory.

"He was a monster out there," Trotz said. "He scored a big goal. Obviously, when he came to the rink, he knew he wasn't going to be the most likeable guy in the arena. He made a big statement. He said, 'I'm here to stay and nothing's going to stop me from being a top player.' He's all about business, on and off the ice. I'm very fortunate that I can put him on the ice, night in and night out."

As for the constant boos, Weber just took them in stride.

"It's part of it, whatever," he said. "I guess we're more focused on the game."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 10:58 AM

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

Predators-Red Wings projected lineups

DETROIT -- It's only two games into their Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series and already it's been kind of an odd one for both the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators.

Not only was there the well-publicized incident with Shea Weber and Henrik Zetterberg at the conclusion of Game 1 at Bridgestone Arena, but there's also the fact Detroit won Game 2 with both coaches basically agreeing Nashville played a better game.

The Red Wings were limited to just 17 shots on goal in the second game, yet triumphed 3-2 on goals by Ian White, Cory Emmerton and Johan Franzen plus some outstanding work in net from Jimmy Howard (24 saves). The only constant thus far, heading into Sunday's Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena (Noon NBC, CBC, RDS), has been the tight-checking nature of both games -- which both ended in 3-2 scores.

There's no reason to expect any different on Sunday, either.

"I don't think there's been a whole lot of room either way," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We only had [17 ]shots on goal [in Game 2], so we stopped playing the third period -- didn't skate I didn't think [and] got in a protective mode, which isn't the way you want to do it. In saying that, there's just not a lot of room for either team and that's what we expect. They'll go make some adjustments. We'll go make some adjustments. And we'll both try to do better."

Predators coach Barry Trotz didn't sound all that different in his assessment of the series.

"I was more comfortable with our game [on Friday] when we lost than our first game, when it was just a game that broken up through penalties," Trotz said. "It really hasn't been that physical of a series. Last year against Anaheim, that was nasty. This one's just ... you have to grind for inches. It's more of a grinding series than it is physical."

Detroit's Ian White missed practice on Saturday with a sore instep on his left foot as the result of blocking a slap shot in Game 2, but he's expected to play on Sunday. Nashville defenseman Hal Gill, who hasn't played since the end of the regular season, will be a gametime decision.

Here is how each team is likely to start Sunday's game:

PREDATORS

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

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Jack Hillen/Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

RED WINGS

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

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

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 11:21 PM

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

Red Wings happy with penalty killing, not penalties

DETROIT -- On the one hand, the Detroit Red Wings couldn't be happier about their penalty-killing units in their first two Western Conference Quarterfinal games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Detroit has killed all 12 power plays that were granted to the Nashville Predators and the Red Wings haven't allowed a power-play goal in the last nine games dating back to the conclusion of the regular season -- totaling 37 straight successful penalty kills.

On the other hand, the Wings also took significantly more penalties in the first two games than they'd averaged per game all season.

"I have no idea how many in a row it's been," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said of the penalty-kill streak. "The last two games there, have been a bit too many penalties we've taken. We don't really want that."

What they do want is to continue doing the things that have sparked such recent success while playing with less skaters -- such as blocking shots in bunches, clearing out loose rebounds and winning faceoffs inside the defensive zone.

"I think we've just been doing a great job frustrating them, blocking shots, taking away passing lanes and just working hard out there," said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who's also been a big part of the defensive special teams unit's hot stretch. "I really think it's the sacrificing [of] the body, the way we've been blocking shots. Guys have been putting their bodies on the line out there. It's not easy to step in front of Shea Weber's shot. Guys have been doing it."

The Wings have also been doing it without the help of two top penalty killers -- Darren Helm and captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Helm is out for the remainder of the playoffs after severing tendons in his forearm in Game 1, while Lidstrom isn't playing on either penalty-kill unit because of a deep bone bruise on his foot that's susceptible to getting hit again by a hard shot -- which is what caused the initial injury.

"Not having [Helm] out there is a huge blow," Howard said on Saturday. "With his speed and everything ... he gets up ice and then disrupts the flow of their breakouts. But at the same time, guys are stepping up and that's great to see."

Speaking of things to see, Howard's been having a difficult time seeing shots because of traffic in front of the net caused primarily by Patric Hornqvist -- who said he patterned his net-front game after fellow countryman Tomas Holmstrom.

Though Hornqvist hasn't scored yet on the power play, he's definitely making his presence felt in front of Howard.

"He's just like [Holmstrom]," Howard said. "He's really going to get his stick on pucks. As a goalie, he just makes your life miserable out there. He's a hard guy to move as well."

That's why it's nice to have the big body of Ericsson back from a wrist fracture that kept him out for much of the final stretch in the regular season. Ericsson's play in all situations has been noticeably improved this season, especially since his return, but especially so while killing penalties.

"That was one of my goals before the season and from the meetings I had, was to take a step on the penalty kill and become a bigger factor for the team," Ericsson said. "That's how I wanted to contribute. I think I got better throughout the year on the penalty kill, but you're always working as a unit out there. Everyone has to work together. It's not one player or two."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 11:10 PM

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

Red Wings 'bottom six' help them come out on top

DETROIT -- Mike Babcock wasn't real thrilled with the play of his third and fourth forward lines down the last stretch of the regular season and into Game 1 of the Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinal series.

He told reporters prior to the second game on Friday at Bridgestone Arena that Detroit needed more at both ends of the rink out of his "bottom six" forwards and they responded in kind. Rookie Cory Emmerton, who centers the fourth line, scored his first NHL playoff goal on a great individual effort late in the first period to highlight the offense, but third-line wingers Drew Miller and Danny Cleary also drew recognition from Babcock on Saturday.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:29 PM

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

Wings' White misses practice, expects to play

DETROIT -- They haven't allowed a power-play goal 12 opportunities with the man-advantage for the Nashville Predators during the first two games, but the Detroit Red Wings might have paid a price for it anyway.

Defenseman Ian White missed the team's brief practice Saturday in Detroit with a foot injury that happened while killing a Nashville power-play late in the second period of a 3-2 win Friday at Bridgestone Arena.

White blocked a hard, one-timed slapshot by Predators defenseman Roman Josi with the instep of his left skate with just 6:01 left in the period and was immediately slowed. White managed to finish the game, but couldn't get his foot into the skate boot on Saturday morning for practice.

White and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, however, expect him to play in Game 3 on Sunday of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series (noon, NBC) -- which is knotted at one game apiece with the next two in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.

"Just a little tender," White said. "Just take the day off and let it rest."

White, who raised his foot off the ice to stop the puck, also said X-rays weren't necessary.

“No, I’ve been hit in the foot by a puck many times, so I was pretty sure it wasn't broken," he said. "It was just one of those things that when you take a puck in the foot, it’s gonna hurt.”

White also got stuck on the ice during a high-tempo sequence after getting hit in the foot and hobbled around as best he could until he could get to the bench.

“We were out there killing for a while," White said. "You take that puck in the foot and you’re already tired and you can’t skate and you have to go battle some more, but that’s how it goes.”
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:48 PM

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

No Gill at Preds practice, still hopeful for Sunday

NASHVILLE – Predators defenseman Hal Gill, who has missed the first two games of his team’s Western Conference Quarterfinals series with Detroit, did not participate in a brief practice Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
 
Asked if he had a chance to play in Game 3 on Sunday, Gill responded “hope so.”
 
Predators coach Barry Trotz said Gill, 37, is “getting closer.”
 
“One of the things with certain injuries here, sometimes you’re better off not to skate in terms of that and let it settle down,” Trotz said. “Every day that goes by, he’s getting closer and we felt that we can just keep him off today. He did some stuff a lot earlier before everybody got here and we’ll see where it is.”
 
Gill led Nashville in shorthanded time on ice during the regular season and was the team’s top shot-blocker.
 
Power play struggles
 
Nashville has not scored a power play goal in its first 12 chances through Games 1 and 2, but Trotz is not getting discouraged. That is because the Preds are generating plenty of chances, but they’re just not finishing them off.
 
Trotz said there would be a tendency to “reinvent the wheel” if the unit were not generating chances.
 
In the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators lost their opening-round series with eventual champion Chicago in six games in part because they did not score a power-play goal through the first five games.
 
“The difference in that power play was in that we got no chances,” Trotz said. “That’s the biggest thing. We just weren’t getting any chances or very, very little. That’s not the case here. … I remember that well, by the way.”
 
0-for-Detroit
 
The Preds have never won a postseason game in Detroit, failing in all six chances in their two previous meetings with the Red Wings. If they want to win this series, they will need to do so.
 
“Obviously, it’s a tough place to play,” Ryan Suter said. “We have to if we want to win the series, we’re going to have to win a game there. Going into it, you’re looking at it as, ‘Oh, geez, we’ve never won there. We gotta win.’ But it’s just more of a fact that if we play the way we’re capable of playing we have a good chance to win.”
 

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:02 PM

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

Filppula happy for Rinne's rise, but not right now

NASHVILLE – Each team in this Western Conference Quarterfinal series has one player from Finland -- forward Valtteri Filppula for Detroit and Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
 
Filppula has played against Rinne in his homeland and often as foes in the Central Division. He said in the NHL that Rinne is one of the few goalies who will have a chat with him during the game, though none of that has gone on in the playoffs.
 
“You have a little bit of a Finnish connection and any time you face a Finnish guy, usually say hi to him and what’s going on there,” Rinne said. “He’s a nice guy, but now it’s a different time of the season but he’s pretty laid-back guy and I’m usually that way, too.”
 
Filppula said that part of what makes the 6-foot-5 Rinne successful is that he’s an excellent athlete. Filppula said he played against Rinne some back home, but more now in the NHL.
 
“Now you get to see him more and obviously he’s become better as you would hope,” Filppula said of Rinne. “He’s always been good size and really fast and I think that’s the biggest thing as to why he’s really good. He’s really quick and obviously never gives up and makes a lot of good saves after you think it should be a sure goal. He comes back and makes those key saves. Definitely, it’s a fun goalie to follow and hope for all the best, but not so much in this series.”
 
Rinne was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last year but he does not have a star personality. He’s fairly low-key off the ice. Filppula said that as a result Rinne does not exactly have rock-star status in Finland.
 
“Well, I think for the Finnish audience, it’s tougher since he didn’t play that much back home,” Filppula said. “He came over here pretty early but I think now people see him play more and I think he’s definitely one of the top Finnish players to play. He’s really earned that right and everyone knows he’s a great goalie now. I don’t think he acts that way, which is a good thing.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

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

Cleary returns to 'heavy' style despite knee injury

NASHVILLE – As recently as last week, Red Wings right wing Dan Cleary said his left knee was only at 50 percent.
 
Without giving away too much, Cleary said Friday that improved medication is helping him in the playoffs. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he thought that Cleary was one of the team’s better forwards in Detroit’s 3-2 loss in Game 1 and that Cleary played a “heavy” game and not a “light” game on the periphery, as he was forced to do during the regular season when the knee bothered him.
 
Cleary played 15:49 and posted an even rating. Cleary was one of only four Red Wings not to be a minus in Game 1 and one of those four was center Darren Helm, who endured a playoff-ending laceration to his forearm and played only 3:06.
 
“How do I phrase this the right way? The medicine helped a lot,” Cleary said of Game 1. “It’s a little different in the playoffs. … The dose is a little better. It allowed to me to be able not to feel [the pain], so I felt like normal. It’s good.
 
“Let’s put it this way, medicine certainly helped -- like a lot. The type that you take in the playoffs is a lot different. It was a huge difference. I felt like normal. I could skate.” 
 
Cleary normally kills penalties with Helm so he said he did not think he would see more time on the penalty kill. But he said Helm’s loss was a blow to the team. Helm underwent surgery Wednesday.
 
“His loss is felt for sure,” Cleary said.
 
He said he had spoken to Helm and was asked about Helm’s spirits.
 
“How would you be, you know?” he said. “He’s pretty down, but at least he’s -- in a way -- healthy. You know, there’s no nerve damage, so that was a huge thing but his loss is going to be felt, huge, huge loss.”
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:33 PM

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

Projected Game 2 lineups

Here are the projected lineups for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena:

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

PREDATORS
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Brandon Yip
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Jack Hillen/Ryan Ellis
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 1:18 PM

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

Predators' Gill rules himself out for Game 2

NASHVILLE – Predators defenseman Hal Gill ruled himself out on Friday for Game 2 of his team’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit because of a lower-body injury that continues to plague him.
 
Nashville acquired the 6-foot-7 defenseman in February for his penalty-killing and shot-blocking abilities from Montreal in preparation for their Stanley Cup Playoff run, but Gill has yet to be available. He skated before the team’s optional skate Friday at Bridgestone Arena but did not feel well enough to go. He said the decision was made in conjunction with the coaching and training staffs.
 
“It’s getting better,” the 37-year-old Gill said, meeting with the media for the first time since the injury occurred April 5 against Dallas. “It’s something I have to take it day by day and test it without pushing too hard.”
 
Then he ruled himself out.
 
“I’m going to give it some more time,” Gill said. “At this point, I don’t think I can help the team so we have some good players that can play, so I’ll let that go.”
 
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he would dress seven defensemen again for warm-ups, as he did in Game 1, and then make his decision as to who would be in the lineup – either Jack Hillen, who played in Game 1, or rookie Ryan Ellis. Hillen, 26, seems the likely choice.

Beyond the team’s first pair with Shea Weber, the defense corps is not big. Hillen and Ellis both stand 5-foot-10, but Hillen outweighs Ellis officially by 11 pounds and is a bit more muscular. He played 8:20 and was plus-1 while taking a minor penalty Wednesday.
 
Nashville had to kill eight penalties in its 3-2 victory in Game 1 and Detroit scored two power-play goals, so Gill’s presence – and his 105 career playoff games -- was missed.
 
“To win is awesome, I don’t care how it happens,” Gill said, “but those are the games that you want to be a part of. Those are the fun ones. Playoff hockey is the most exciting thing that I’ve ever had in my life so it’s tough not to play.”
 
Gill said to try and play right now would be foolish and that he just has to be patient.
 
“There’s being tough and then there’s too much pride and right at this point it would be too much pride to play,” he said. “So, like I said, we got good players, we can win with them.”
 
Gill refused to handicap his odds for Game 3 on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, but said he would travel with the team Saturday for the trip. He said he has been staying in shape, exercising, waiting until he is ready. Game 4 is Tuesday and then the teams have two days off before Game 5, if necessary, back at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, giving him potentially more time to heal.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 11:32 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Helm undergoes surgery, out for rest of playoffs

The Detrot Red Wings announced Thursday that forward Darren Helm underwent successful surgery Wednesday night to repair lacerated tendons in his right forearm and will miss the rest of the playoffs.

The surgery was performed by Dr. Douglas Weikert at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Helm is expected to make a full recovery and return for next season's training camp.

Helm suffered the injury with just over eight minutes remaining in the first period of the Red Wings' 3-2 loss to the Predators in the series opener.



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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 8:14 PM

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

Gill to miss Game 1 with lower-body injury

NASHVILLE -- Predators defenseman Hal Gill will miss Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Detroit with a lower-body injury.
 
Jack Hillen, 26, took his place in the lineup and made his playoff debut Wednesday night. Gill, acquired from Montreal in February, finished 16th in the League in blocked shots and led Nashville in shorthanded time on ice per game.
 
Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk earned the spots on the wings on the fourth line, which is centered by Paul Gaustad. Coach Barry Trotz seemed like he might play rookie speedster Craig Smith, but opted for the larger Yip on the right side. Earlier in the day, Trotz compared Yip to last year's playoff hero for Nashville, Joel Ward.
 
Veteran right wing Jordin Tootoo, center Colin Wilson and wing Brian McGrattan were the other scratches for Nashville.
 
As expected, center Darren Helm returned to the lineup for Detroit. Forward Gustav Nyquist was scratched in favor of Cory Emmerton, who had six goals and four assists in 71 games.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 2:42 PM

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

Red Wings welcome Helm back to lineup

NASHVILLE -- Red Wings center Darren Helm, who missed the regular season's final 10 games with a sprained knee, will return to the lineup on Wednesday for Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
 
Detroit coach Mike Babcock gave an emphatic, "Helm's playing" after his team's morning skate. Helm -- who had nine goals and 17 assists in 68 games -- provides Detroit with some speed and a helpful penalty-killer up front.
 
Earlier in the week, Helm said he would not be at 100 percent effectiveness if he played, but Babcock put those ideas to rest on Wednesday.
 
"Well, if he was 50 percent effectiveness, he wouldn't be playing; let’s get that straight," Babcock said. "We sat down and we talked about that specifically and I said I have lots of guys on deck ready to go and he assured me he's ready to go, so there's no issue there."
 
Before Babcock spoke, Helm said he would have to consult with the doctors and trainers before getting the OK to play.
 
"I want to make sure I'm helping my team, not hurting them," he said. "This has always been everyone's favorite time of year, but it's a chance for me to play the way I want to play all the time. It's hard to play this style of game 82 games a year, but it's focus on one game at a time now. I can play with lots of energy, speed and finishing checks, and I hope I can be out there and make a difference."
 
Babcock said he has ruled out forwards Jan Mursak, Riley Sheahan and Chris Conner. The final decision on Detroit's lineup will come down to forwards Justin Abdelkader or Cory Emmerton. Babcock said Helm's presence in the lineup helps to align the Red Wings' bottom two lines and will help to provide them more scoring depth. Then he seemed to engage in some gamesmanship.
 
"Well, Helmer puts everybody in the right spot," he said. "We had a great bottom six all year long and then we lost our people [to numerous injuries] and we had no bottom six, we had no support scoring. You know, it's amazing when you put people in the right spot. When I look at their team, I see [Nick] Spaling and [Paul] Gaustad in the three-four holes [at center], those are good matchups for us. They weren't without [Helm]."
 
Babcock seemed to continue the theme of trying to turn up the competitive pressure on Nashville, saying he and general manager Ken Holland have often talked about how they would prefer to start the playoffs on the road instead of their status as a perennial high seed. He said starting on the road makes his team looser.
 
"Just play the game," he said. "Just get out and get after them. You don't have to worry about anything. You just play, nice and simple and just put as much pressure on the opposition as you can and just watch them tighten up."

Here is the Red Wings' projected lineup for Game 1:
 
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyqvist - Justin Abdelkader/Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom
 
Nicklas Lidstrom - Jonathan Ericsson
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Ian White
 
Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 2:29 PM

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

Gill to be a game-time decision

NASHVILLE -- Predators coach Barry Trotz re-iterated that defenseman Hal Gill, who leads his team in averaging penalty-killing time on ice, will be a game-time decision Wednesday for Game 1 of the team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC).
 
The Predators held an optional skate Wednesday and the 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill (lower-body injury) did not participate. Trotz said the Predators would skate seven defensemen in warm-ups.
 
If Gill cannot play, then Jack Hillen or rookie Ryan Ellis likely would take his place in the lineup. Trotz described the 21-year-old Ellis, last year's Ontario Hockey League player of the year, as someone who is poised and does not get rattled on the big stage, as he has played in high-profile tournaments such as the World Junior Championship.
 
Hillen, 26, has played more than 200 NHL games, but, like Ellis, would be making his playoff debut. Hillen is a sturdy 5-10 and 190 pounds and Trotz seemed to trust his penalty-killing ability, which could be the team's need if Gill can't play.
 
"Jack's one of those guys who is really sort of one of those under-the-radar guys," Trotz said. "He's really efficient. He skates real well. He's really strong on his feet and therefore he's got leverage skills. He's a good penalty-killer and you know what you're going to get with Jack. He's a little older; he's 26, so he's a little more mature than other players."
 
Hillen had two goals, four assists, 20 penalty minutes and a plus-6 rating in 55 games. He was a mainstay in the lineup for much of the first half of the season, but once Ellis was called up after the League's two-day December holiday break and Gill was acquired in February, he played sparingly.
 
Hillen sounded like someone who had been told to be ready to go.
 
"I slept well, but I was really excited," he said. "I definitely went to bed thinking about it, woke up thinking about it. Just went over it in my head -- if I'm in there, what I need to do -- so, definitely excited about it."
 
While Gill's presence in the lineup is the major issue for Nashville going into Game 1, Trotz also has some decisions to make in terms of his fourth-line forwards. Matt Halischuk and rookie Craig Smith seem to be the likely choices to play with center Paul Gaustad, although Brandon Yip also is a possibility on the right side instead of Smith. Colin Wilson, Jordin Tootoo and Brian McGrattan were among the final players coming off the ice and seem less likely to crack the lineup.
 
Smith ranked among the League's top rookie scorers during the first part of the season, but hit something of a wall in the second half. Trotz said he thinks it's not unusual for that to happen for first-year players who have come out of college. (Smith played at the University of Wisconsin.)
 
But on Wednesday, Trotz said Smith is "flying around," and that looks like the explosive player he was earlier in the season. Smith had a goal and two assists in the Predators' regular-season finale Saturday against Colorado.
 
In the season finale, Smith skated on a line with Wilson at center and Halischuk on the other wing. Smith was asked if he thought his performance on Saturday gave Trotz reason to play him in the playoffs.
 
"I think our whole line did," he said. "I thought our line played exceptionally well. I think we were playing simple and doing the right things and had success. At this point, anyone who's in the lineup is going to be ready to go."
 
Here is the lineup the lineup the Predators likely will put on the ice for Game 1:
 
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Gabriel Bourque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Brandon Yip could replace Smith on the right side of the fourth line.

If Gill can't play, Bouillon likely would slide into his spot with Josi, and Jack Hillen would play on the third pair with Klein.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 3:54 PM

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

Gill (lower body) a game-time decision for opener

NASHVILLE -- The Predators acquired defenseman Hal Gill, who made appearances in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009, winning it with Pittsburgh the second time around, precisely for the postseason, but his presence in the lineup for Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit on Wednesday will be a game-time decision, coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday.
 
One of the 6-foot-7 Gill's specialties is blocking shots, and he may have injured himself doing just that in Nashville's home finale on Thursday when he stepped in front of a drive by Dallas' Sheldon Souray, owner of one of the League's hardest shots. Gill did not practice on Wednesday. Trotz would not confirm that Gill injured by blocking Souray's shot, but did confirm Gill had a lower-body injury.
 
"We felt with his injury, just no sense trying to aggravate it anymore, so we'll know in the morning," Trotz said.
 
Gill did not play in the season finale on Saturday against Colorado and Trotz said he had a "maintenance day" on Monday when Gill did not practice either. Gill skated by himself on Tuesday before the team's main session.
 
Splitting his time between Montreal and Nashville, Gill averaged 17:08 in time on ice in 76 games and posted a minus-3 rating, though he was plus-4 in 23 games with Nashville playing slightly more than he did in Montreal at 18:02. In particular, Nashville wanted him for his penalty-killing ability. At 3:28 per game, he is by far the Preds' leader in average shorthanded time on ice. Nashville acquired the 37-year-old with a conditional fifth-round pick on Feb. 17 in exchange for forwards Blake Geoffrion and Rob Slaney and a second-round pick. Coincidentally, both of Gill's appearances in the Cup Final came against Detroit, Nashville's opponent in the coming series.
 
Gill led the Preds with 161 blocked shots, which ranked him 16th in the NHL.
 
Trotz was asked if he were worried about a letdown if Gill cannot play on Wednesday.
 
"Well, we can't," he said. "The playoffs are about, there's going to be adversities, there's going to be changes in the lineup, and you just have to adjust. If he's in the lineup, great. If he's not, then we'll just have to adjust. The playoffs are all about adjustments. Not everything's going to go perfect. After Game 1, whoever wins is probably going to limit their adjustments, and the team that loses is probably going to adjust a little more because something didn't work.
 
"That's sort of the cat-and-mouse game that happens in the playoffs, especially when you're playing a team and playing them maybe up to seven games."
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:40 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Lidstrom: Red Wings don't mind being underdogs

The last time the Detroit Red Wings finished as low as third in their division was in 1990-91 -- the season before Nicklas Lidstrom arrived from Sweden to patrol their blue line.

Over the ensuing two decades, Lidstrom and his teammates haven't had much experience being the underdog in a series -- especially not in the first round. But despite completing their 12th consecutive season with over 100 points, there are many who consider the Red Wings just that heading into a series with the Nashville Predators in which their Central Division rivals have home ice.

"We don't mind that at all, being the underdog," Lidstrom said during a media conference call Monday. "Nashville had a real strong regular season and finished ahead of us in points. I think they're the team to be the favorites, and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Starting the series at Bridgestone Arena could prove to be a distinct disadvantage for the Wings if they can't reverse a regular-season trend that saw them post an NHL-high 31 wins at home, but finish a mediocre 17-17-7 on the road.

"Our team defense needs to be better and we need to play better without the puck, especially with the quick forwards Nashville's got," Lidstrom said about how Detroit might reverse its fortunes. "We have to take advantage of our chances offensively, too."

Getting healthy is also a key. The Wings got some key players like Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk back late in the season, but the conditions of veteran Danny Cleary (sore knee) and energy-line player Darren Helm (sprained knee ligament) also bear watching.

"Both Cleary and Helm skated with us today, practiced and stayed out there the whole time," Lidstrom said. "We expect Clear to play in the first game. Helm is almost there. He's getting closer and closer. I think we need a player like Helm, with his speed up front, to play against a very good Nashville team."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Predators vs. Red Wings series blog

Preds, Wings set to play Game 1 Wednesday

In one could be one of the closest series of the 2012 postseason, Nashville and Detroit will open up their first-round series Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena.

The puck will drop for the Central-Division rivals at 8 ET. Game 1 will be broadcast nationally on CNBC in the U.S. and CBC in Canada.
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Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp