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Predators hope to draw closer to Wings in Central

by Brian Hunter /

RED WINGS (31-14-6) at PREDATORS (27-18-7)


Last 10:
Detroit 5-4-1; Nashville 4-5-1

Season series: Third of six meetings season and the first at Bridgestone Arena. The teams have split a pair of games at Joe Louis Arena, with Detroit winning 5-2 on Oct. 30 as Pavel Datsyuk lit the lamp twice, and Nashville claiming a 3-2 victory on Dec. 8 behind 35 saves from Anders Lindback.

Big story: The Predators have their work cut out if they want to catch the Red Wings and win their first Central Division title, but it's not out of the question with four games between the teams still remaining and three of them in the Music City. Nashville has 30 games left and 20 of them are at home, so this is a team that could bear watching if it takes advantage of its schedule.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: He's been inconsistent for the better part of the past two seasons, but Detroit got the 2008-09 version of Columbus goalie Steve Mason on Friday. The former Calder Trophy winner stopped all 34 shots the Red Wings took, as they fell 3-0 to the Blue Jackets, a team desperate for points. While there wasn't much in the way of good news on the ice, the Wings could get back Datsyuk and another injured forward, Tomas Holmstrom, as early as Saturday.

"Just (not) executing. Not making plays," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said in regards to what went wrong against Columbus. "Whether it's a pass on a breakout the way we wanted to, we just didn't execute well at all."

Predators: Goal scoring has been a concern of late for Nashville, which is looking to snap out of an 0-3-1 funk during which it has scored only six times. The Predators' goaltending has kept them in games, however, with Lindback looking solid in making 26 saves against Philadelphia on Thursday. Marcel Goc and Joel Ward rallied them from one-goal deficits but a spin-o-rama goal by Ville Leino with 3:14 to play in the third allowed the Flyers to hand them a 3-2 defeat.

"It's a wasted effort, as far as I'm concerned," captain Shea Weber said. "We fought hard against a good team, and we just couldn't get it done. It was very frustrating."

Who's hot: Johan Franzen was shut out like the rest of the Red Wings on Friday, but when you score 5 goals in your previous game, as Franzen did against the Senators on Wednesday, you still qualify. … Weber (1-2-3) and Martin Erat (1-2-3) each have three-game points streaks going for the Predators.

Injury report:
Datsyuk (hand) has already been activated from injured reserve, while Holmstrom (hand) is apparently also close to a return. Goalie Chris Osgood (sports hernia), defenseman Brad Stuart (jaw) and forward Mike Modano (wrist) are also sidelined. … Nashville activated forward Steve Sullivan off injured reserve, after he missed the past 18 games due to a lower-body injury. Defenseman Francis Bouillon (upper body) and forwards Matthew Lombardi (concussion), Cal O'Reilly (leg) and Marek Svatos (knee) still remain on IR.

Stat pack: Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard missed a chance to take over the NHL lead in wins. He has 25 and is tied with four others. … Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has a 2.10 goals-against average and .929 save percentage, numbers that rank him second in the League behind only the Bruins' Tim Thomas.

Puck drop: With Detroit playing for the third time in four nights, there's a good chance Joey MacDonald will make only his third start and sixth appearance of the season between the pipes and match up with Rinne. With Osgood out long term and the team losing Evgeni Nabokov to the Islanders on waivers after signing him, MacDonald remains the go-to guy when Howard gets a night off.

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