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Predators beat Wings to move back into eighth place

by John Kreiser
The 17,113 fans who packed Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night couldn't have asked for much more.

Not only did their Nashville Predators move back into the top eight in the West, they did it by beating the team Preds fans love to hate -- the Detroit Red Wings.
Jonathan Blum's third-period power-play goal broke a 1-1 tie and David Legwand added an empty-netter in a 3-1 win, Nashville's fourth in five games with the Wings this season.

In the East, eighth-place Buffalo moved two points clear of ninth-place Carolina by routing Atlanta 8-2. The Sabres' next opponent is the Predators, who come to HSBC Arena for an early-evening game on Sunday.

Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Saturday night's games:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

Philadelphia (96 points after Saturday's 3-2 shootout win at Dallas) moved back on top in the East when Ville Leino scored in the sixth round of the tiebreaker after the Flyers were unable to hang on to a 2-0 lead. The victory made the Flyers the second team to assure itself of a playoff berth and gave them a 2-0-1 mark on their three-game trip.

Washington (94 points) has a three-day break in its six-game road trip. The Caps, 2-1-0 after the first three games, don't play again until Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

Boston (88 points after Saturday's 5-2 loss at Toronto) saw a 1-1 game blow up as the Leafs scored four unanswered goals -- all by players who've lit the red light fewer than five times. The Bruins are still on top in the Northeast Division despite a 1-3-3 mark in their last seven games.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (90 points) had the last of four days off before the Rangers come to the Consol Energy Center.

Tampa Bay (89 points after Saturday's 3-2 OT loss at Ottawa) appeared to be on the way to a win -- the Bolts led 2-0 with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation and were on a power play. But they allowed a shorthanded goal by Ryan Shannon, the tying goal by Nick Foligno and the winner in overtime to Jason Spezza to finish a four-game trip that saw them go 1-0-3.

Montreal (85 points) pays a rare visit to Minnesota on Sunday. They haven't been to the Xcel Energy Center since Oct. 30, 2008. The game is just the 10th between the teams since the Wild entered the NHL in 2000.

New York Rangers (80 points) hope goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will be able to play Sunday in Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NHL Network-Canada). He didn't practice Saturday after a goalmouth collision late in Friday's 6-3 win against Montreal left him with a stiff neck.

Buffalo (78 points after Saturday's 8-2 home win against Atlanta) had its biggest offensive night of the season to move two points in front of ninth-place Carolina. The Sabres scored the last five goals of the game after the Thrashers had closed within 3-2. Buffalo can increase its lead over the 'Canes on Sunday when Nashville comes to HSBC Arena.

On the outside looking in:

Carolina (76 points) will spend the next couple of days watching and hoping their fellow contenders don't get too many points. The 'Canes are off until hosting Ottawa on Tuesday.

Toronto (74 points after Saturday's 5-2 home win against Boston) routed the Bruins by getting goals from five players who've combined for all of 13 this season. Among them was 2009 first-round Nazem Kadri, who got his first in the NHL. The Leafs have a tough week coming up -- they're on the road for three games against Western Conference teams.

Atlanta (72 points after Saturday's 8-2 loss at Buffalo) saw its playoff hopes take a major blow when the Thrashers came up with a stinker at Buffalo. They trailed only 3-2 before Buffalo ran off five unanswered goals. The Thrashers get four days to watch and wait before visiting Long Island on Thursday.

New Jersey (70 points) almost has to win Sunday at Columbus to have any chance of making the playoffs after losing to Ottawa and Washington on back-to-back nights.

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Vancouver (103 points) had the first of four days off before beginning a road trip in Detroit on Wednesday.

Detroit (94 points after Saturday's 3-1 loss at Nashville) opened the scoring on Dan Cleary's goal in the first period but couldn't get another puck past Pekka Rinne and lost to Nashville for the fourth time in five tries this season. The Wings played without injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen.

San Jose (92 points after Saturday's 5-3 home win against St. Louis) got two goals from Joe Pavelski, who added an assist for 11 points in four games as the Sharks went 3-1-0 while playing four games in six days. They get a three-day break before Calgary comes to the Shark Tank on Wednesday.

The next five:

Phoenix (89 points) had a welcome day off before opening a six-game homestand Sunday with a visit from Chicago. The Coyotes won four games in six nights on the road, ending with Friday's 3-1 win at Vancouver.

Los Angeles (86 points after Saturday's 2-1 home OT loss to Anaheim) managed to get a point when Dustin Brown scored midway through the third period, ending more than five periods without a goal for L.A. The point was enough to move the Kings into sole possession of fifth place.

Dallas (85 points after Saturday's 3-2 home shootout loss to Philadelphia) rallied to get a point after trailing 2-0 but missed a chance to win on a late power play that carried into overtime before losing in a shootout. Happily, the Stars don't see the Flyers any more -- they've dropped eight in a row to Philadelphia.

Chicago (84 points) enjoyed a second day off before visiting Phoenix on Sunday. The Hawks have just two games next week, both at home after two-day breaks.

Nashville (84 points after Saturday's 3-1 home win against Detroit) moved back into the top eight and delighted a packed house at Bridgestone Arena by beating their fiercest rivals for the fourth time in five games this season. But the Preds had no time to celebrate: They jumped right on a plane for a trip to Buffalo and an early-evening meeting with the Sabres.

On the outside looking in:

Anaheim (83 points after Saturday's 2-1 OT win at Los Angeles) got a big win against their biggest rival when Corey Perry blew a slap shot past Jonathan Quick 1:32 into overtime. Ray Emery stopped 31 of 32 shots to win for the second time in as many starts. The Ducks go right back to work on Sunday when Calgary comes to Honda Center.

Calgary (83 points) starts a grueling four-game trip at Anaheim on Sunday. The Flames play six of their next seven on the road.

Minnesota (78 points after Saturday's 5-4 home OT loss to Columbus) rallied with two late goals to get a point, but gave away any chance at a second one when Brent Burns' giveaway in the final minute of overtime let Antoine Vermette score the game-winner. Sunday's game against Montreal could be a make-or-break affair for the Wild.
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