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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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Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season