DETROIT – Their 3-2 shootout win Friday afternoon against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in Beantown still had the Detroit Red Wings talking about the atmosphere of that game Saturday morning.
It was the first NBC broadcast of the season, it was the NHL’s inaugural “Thanksgiving Showdown” and it was intense from start to finish, which ended with Todd Bertuzzi’s slick top-shelf move to beat Tuukka Rask for the win.
Some of the Wings even said it felt a little like a playoff game, with the balance of the game hanging on seemingly every rush up the ice down the stretch. Now, Detroit has to face the always-physical, grinding style of the Nashville Predators a day later back home at Joe Louis Arena.
“Every game is a battle and if you’re not up for it or you’re not 100 percent going into the game, you probably will not be in the game,” 38-year old Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom said following the Wings’ optional morning skate. “[Nashville] doesn’t give up much. They really seem to block lots of shots and their best player is probably the goalie (Pekka Rinne), so we’ve got to get lots of shots and get in his face [so he doesn’t] see the shots coming.”
That probably sounds easier than it’s going to be for the Wings to do. Asked what’s the most difficult challenge about playing back-to-back games, let alone ones that involve a defending Cup champion, Detroit coach Mike Babcock was to the point.
“Energy,” he said. “It’s real simple. You don’t like to play back-to-back if you don’t have to. We’re fortunate it was an afternoon game (in Boston) and we’ll come here and get after it.”
They’ll also “get after it” with a new face in the lineup, as forward Patrick Eaves will get back on the ice for the first time since a Nov. 15 loss against the St. Louis Blues – a span of six games as a healthy scratch.
Detroit didn’t skate forward lines Saturday morning, but Eaves will likely slot into the right wing slot of the third line for Justin Abdelkader – who may drop down to center the fourth line in place of Cory Emmerton. That would mean Eaves would be paired with speed center Darren Helm and another good skater in Jiri Hudler.
“Eaves has been fine,” Babcock said. “The reality is, the way our lineup’s been this year, I like Patty to play with two skaters, so he’s been the odd man out not because of things he’s done. He played great in St. Louis his last time out.”
Eaves also battled a back issue that kept him out for three games in the first week of November, but he said that’s healed and he’s ready to contribute.
“I’ve been waiting to get this opportunity and it should be fun,” said Eaves, who has one assist in nine games played. “Just staying in shape and keeping your mind in the hockey mode is all you can do. You can control what you can control and that’s about it. As a player you’re always motivated to play.”
Here are the projected lineups for the Red Wings and Predators:
Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Martin Erat - Mike Fisher - Sergei Kostitsyn
Jordin Tootoo - Craig Smith - Nick Spaling
Matt Halischuk - Blake Geoffrion - Jerred Smithson
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein
Roman Josi - Jonathan Blum
Pekka Rinne will get the start in net, while Anders Lindback will be on the bench as the backup.
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Danny Cleary
Jiri Hudler - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart
Jimmy Howard will get his 15th straight start in net, while Ty Conklin will be on the bench as the backup.