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Predators v Wings - 2012 Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinals

Rinne rolling as Nashville moves on

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Five games into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is right where he was at the end of the regular season -- leading the League in wins.

After eliminating the Detroit Red Wings from their Western Conference Quarterfinal series with a 2-1 victory on Friday, Rinne stood in the Preds' dressing room, answering questions confidently, just as he was before the series began.

"We did what we planned to do," he said. "We were well prepared. I think it was our strongest game of the series. Just overall, I thought we won it and we had a lot of will in our game and we were able to do it."

Rinne might have a relaxed, humble disposition off the ice, but his will on the ice cannot be questioned. With a .944 save percentage and a 1.81 goals-against average, the 6-foot-5 Rinne proved the difference in helping Nashville oust Central Division rival Detroit for the first time in three playoff meetings. The biggest key was winning Games 3 and 4 on the road at Joe Louis Arena, where the Predators had never won in six previous attempts in the postseason.

"Peks played great," Preds All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter said. "Peks stole us a couple of games and he's been doing that all year."

Five reasons Red Wings faltered

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

The Detroit Red Wings are one of those teams that puts the goal of winning the Stanley Cup out there and doesn't shy away from it.

This year wasn't much different, but Detroit's season of promise in 2011-12 -- which at one point saw the Red Wings set the record for most consecutive wins at home in NHL history (23) -- ended far short of the ultimate goal. It took the Nashville Predators, a rival from the Central Division, just five games to put Detroit's dreams of a 12th Stanley Cup on ice.

"Right now, your thoughts aren't really there," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Right now it's just an empty feeling. Very disappointed, not only myself but the way our team started the game. We have to be a lot better than that, show a lot more pride than that.''

Here are the five biggest reasons the Red Wings couldn't finish as champions:

1 . Injuries added up

The Red Wings were rolling. They were cranking out home victories during a lengthy homestand and skimming along at the top of the Western Conference. Then things started unraveling on Feb. 19 -- a Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, in which Detroit found a way to outlast the rival San Jose Sharks for their 23rd straight home win.

Afterward, star center Pavel Datsyuk felt something wasn't right in his knee. It led to arthroscopic knee surgery and he was out for three weeks (11 straight games). Datsyuk never appeared to regain his

typical level of play. Datsyuk was also just the first of many Red Wings regulars to miss extended time down the stretch.

Wings hope they haven't seen the last of Lidstrom

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE – Now that the Detroit Red Wings' season is over, the speculation surrounding whether future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will return for next season can begin in earnest.

Nicklas Lidstrom
Defense - DET
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 14 | +/-: 0
In what coach Mike Babcock called the Red Wings' worst performance of the series, Lidstrom, as usual, would have reason to hold his head high. In Nashville's series-clinching 2-1 win on Friday, Detroit's captain played a team-high 22:25, had one shot, one hit, one takeaway, two blocked shots and finished even -- the same rating he finished with for the series. Not bad, especially since the Red Wings scored only five goals in this series at even strength and only five Wings finished even or better. One of them was Darren Helm, who played only the first period of Game 1 before suffering a playoff-ending injury wrist.

"It's a lot of disappointment right now, especially only getting a goal each of the last couple of games," the seven-time Norris Trophy winner said after his team was eliminated in the opening round for the first time since 2006. "We had some gifts, I thought, defensively. We had some defensive breakdowns that they scored on. It's tough against a very good team like Nashville."

Trotz discusses Preds' success on 'NHL Hour'

The Nashville Predators made franchise history a year ago when they won a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. They now stand one victory away from perhaps an even more significant accomplishment: winning a series against the Central Division rival Detroit Red Wings, who have won four Stanley Cups in the past 15 years.

But even as the Predators return to Bridgestone Arena for Game 5 on Friday (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC) with a chance to wrap things up and buy themselves some rest before the second round, the only coach the team has ever had feels there are improvements still to be made. Appearing as a guest Thursday on "NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman," Barry Trotz expounded on that thought process.

Predators awaiting Gill's return to boost defense

John Manasso - Correspondent

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 after talking with media members around noon Central Time.

Predators coach Barry Trotz said it was a "very important" step and that he thought Gill practiced well.

"He skated the whole practice, he felt pretty good," Trotz said. "We'll see where he is tomorrow. That's really his call."

Gill said he wants to make sure that he can play at a high level.

Preds' Bourque becoming unexpected playoff hero

John Manasso - Correspondent

During the first half of the NHL season, it would have been almost impossible to imagine that Gabriel Bourque would rank among the leading goal scorers through the first week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That's because the Nashville Predators' 21-year-old rookie left wing did not even make his NHL debut until Dec. 28.

However, since then Bourque has firmly ensconced himself in the Preds' lineup, moving from fourth-liner to third-liner to, at times, second-liner. That is where Bourque was playing in the third period of Game 4 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit on Tuesday when he scored his team-leading third goal of the playoffs in the Preds' 3-1 victory that gave them a 3-1 series lead.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz has hardly had a critical word for Bourque, a player with modest size at 5-foot-10, 192 pounds, but with excellent speed and tenacity.

Five ways Detroit can come back against Nashville

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- It's the third straight year the Detroit Red Wings have found themselves just one loss away from the season ending prematurely, only this time it's in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

The Nashville Predators have taken a 3-1 series lead based off star goalie Pekka Rinne and the defense in front of him, despite Detroit having a staggering advantage in shots through the first four games (138-91). As the series shifts back to Nashville's Bridgestone Arena for Game 5 on Friday (8 p.m. CBC,CNBC,RDSI), the Red Wings need to stave off elimination and get back into the series.

Here are five ways to do it:

1. Keep the faith: If there is any good news in Detroit's recent playoff failings, it's that the Wings ought to be familiar with the position they currently find themselves in. Last year in the Western Conference Semfinals, Detroit got down 3-0 to San Jose and managed to win three straight to force a seventh game -- which the Sharks won at HP Pavilion.

Red Wings focus rally on one game at a time

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- The message in the Detroit Red Wings locker room on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena following another frustrating loss to Nashville in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series was simple.

"It's not over yet," said veteran forward Danny Cleary, who was one of many Red Wings left shaking their heads again by goalie Pekka Rinne and his 40 saves in the 3-1 Predators victory.

Technically speaking, Cleary is right.

However, after dropping two straight home games in a building they were dominant in all season, the Red Wings have fallen behind 3-1 in the series and are now precariously close to a third straight exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs sooner than they expected. This time, it could be much sooner with Game 5 on Friday in Nashville now an elimination game.

Nyquist earning praise for strong offensive play

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

Gustav Nyquist
Center - DET
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 1 | +/-: 1

DETROIT -- It took less than 20 games with the Detroit Red Wings for someone to capitalize the 'Q' in Gustav Nyquist's name.

A creative Red Wings fan made it "NyQuist," like a certain cold medicine with a similar name in an edited picture that made its way around fan circles online. Next to a bottle labeled "NyQuist Cold and Flu" is the slogan: "The Swedish skating, passing, dekeing, dangling, scoring, best production you ever got from a rookie in a long time … player."

As it's turned out over the last month, with the Red Wings' offense sputtering a bit, the 22-year old Nyquist has been just what the doctor ordered at times. He's been noticeable in most games and his growing confidence is starting to stand out each time he goes over the boards.

Helm recovering, but angry over another injury

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- Darren Helm's right forearm has been surgically repaired, but that's about the only good news from the injured Detroit Red Wings center's perspective.

"I'm not really too happy with anything that's going on right now. I haven't really gotten over what happened. I'm still pretty angry with the situation."
-- Darren Helm

After returning from a sprained knee that forced him to miss the final 10 games of the regular season, Helm had tendons in his right arm cut by the skate blade of Nashville's Alexander Radulov early in Game 1 of the teams' Western Conference Quarterfinals series and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.

"I'm not really too happy with anything that's going on right now," said Helm, who visibly was upset while meeting with reporters Monday for the first time since the incident happened. "I haven't really gotten over what happened. I'm still pretty angry with the situation."

His anger isn't directed toward Radulov, just the bad luck he's gone through the last month.

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