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At the Rink: Predators at Red Wings

by Paul Harris /

DETROIT -- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he will be most concerned with the defensive corps of the Nashville Predators when the teams play at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

"They've got a great back end, even without [the injured Ryan] Ellis in lineup; they can defend and they can really move the puck," Babcock said. "I think they've got the best goalie in the league and they have enough scoring up front that it keeps you in trouble.

"They're quicker than most teams because of their back end. They can just flat-out get the puck going in a hurry. They built a good back end there, really good players and they make it hard on you."

Detroit (24-11-9) is playing its first home game since New Year's Eve.

"We've just got to kind of bear down, get some energy going out there, maybe use the home crowd a little bit to your advantage and just try to execute, especially during the first 10 minutes of the first period," defenseman Dan DeKeyser said.

Nashville (30-9-4), the NHL's top team, rallied for a 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Washington Capitals on Friday night in Nashville to spoil the return of long-time Predators coach Barry Trotz.

James Neal's second goal of the game, with 1:40 left in regulation, left broke a 3-3 tie and gave Nashville its fifth consecutive win.

Goaltender Carter Hutton made 31 saves in his first win since No. 1 goalie Pekke Rinne was lost for three to five weeks because of a sprained knee.

"[Hutton] was great," Neal told "Some big saves at big times in the game. It's been frustrating for him in the last few games trying to get a win, and guys battled tonight for him. I'm happy for a guy like that who plays behind Pekka but battles every day. A lot of people don't see how hard he works."

The Red Wings said they know the opportunity they'll have on Saturday facing a Predators team without Rinne.

"Pekka Rinne is their best player, so we're very fortunate for him not to be playing," said Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey. We've got to take advantage. He's obviously a big part of their team, so hopefully we can get a few past their back-up."

Detroit is also without its No. 1 goalie. Jimmy Howard is out two to four weeks with a slight groin tear.

Petr Mrazek has made saves on 50 of 53 shots in two wins since Howard was injured.

Here are the projected lineups:


Filip ForsbergMike RibeiroCraig Smith

Colin WilsonMike FisherJames Neal

Matt CullenCalle JarnkrokOlli Jokinen

Gabriel BourquePaul GaustadTaylor Beck

Roman JosiShea Weber

Mattias EkholmSeth Jones

Anton VolchenkovVictor Bartley

Carter Hutton

Marek Mazanec

Scratched: Viktor Stalberg, Anthony Bitetto.

Injured: Pekka Rinne (sprained knee), Ryan Ellis (lower body), Eric Nystrom (upper body)


Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader

Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar

Stephen Weiss - Darren Helm - Teemu Pulkkinen

Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Joakim Andersson

Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall

Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser

Brendan Smith - Xavier Ouellet

Petr Mrazek

Tom McCollum

Scratched: Dan Cleary, Brian Lashoff.

Injured: Jakub Kindl (elbow), Tomas Jurco (back), Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder), Johan Franzen (head), Jimmy Howard (groin).

Status report: Nashville recalled defenseman Anthony Bitetto from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League on Saturday.

Who's hot: Neal has two goals and two assists in his last two games. Tatar has a goal in each of his last two games.

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