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Predators-Red Wings Preview @NHL

There may not be a hotter team in the NHL than the Detroit Red Wings. The Nashville Predators might object to that.

The top teams in the Central Division both will try to extend impressive streaks when they face off at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night in the first of eight meetings this season.

Detroit (10-4-1) has captured six straight division titles, but figures to face a strong challenge this season from Nashville (9-3-1), which has improved its point total each of the last four years.

The Predators finished with a franchise-record 106 points in 2005-06, but were still 18 behind the Red Wings, who led the league for the second consecutive season.

This season is shaping up as a two-team race in the Central with Detroit and Nashville far ahead of St. Louis, Columbus and Chicago.

The Red Wings won just four of their first nine games, but have since tallied seven straight wins behind a dominant defense and the goaltending of six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek.

That trend continued Wednesday as Hasek needed to make just 16 saves - none in the first period - en route to a 3-0 victory over visiting Edmonton.

"I never even had to make one save," said the 41-year-old goaltender. "I stopped the puck, I poke-checked the puck, I passed the puck, but I didn't have to make a save."

The Red Wings came into the game leading the NHL in fewest shots allowed per game and improved on that average. Detroit has outscored opponents 22-10 during the seven-game streak, yielding an average of 20.4 shots per game.

"We're trying to play in the middle and keep them to the outside," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "Let them get shots from the outside. But not from the inside."

The only blemish on Wednesday's win was an injury sustained by right wing Jason Williams, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher before leaving the arena in an ambulance in the second period.

Williams took a solid, clean check from Edmonton's Raffi Torres and hit the ice hard, appearing to land face first. Williams needed 30 stitches to close a cut above his left eye, but left the hospital Thursday morning.

Later on Thursday, Detroit placed Williams on the injured reserve list and recalled forward Brad Norton from Grand Rapids of the AHL.

While most teams can't wait to finish long road trips, the Predators would just as soon stay away from Nashville a while longer. They are 4-0 on their five-game trip, and have won a franchise-record seven in a row on the road.

Defenseman Shea Weber scored the go-ahead goal at 3:34 of the third period and Steve Sullivan had a goal and an assist in Nashville's 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.

"It's all about hard work, mental toughness, sticking with it, and now it's confidence," said Sullivan, who has three goals and six assists during a six-game point streak. "We're confident in our ability to win on the road. We're confident every time we put on the jersey that if we play our best there's no reason we can't win the hockey game."

The Predators have been near perfect since a season-opening three-game skid, winning five straight overall and nine of 10. The only loss in that span came against Vancouver in overtime on Oct. 21.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun has played a big role in the hot streak, going 7-0-1 in eight starts since allowing six goals in a loss at Minnesota on Oct. 7.

"I think this a reflection of the whole team," Vokoun said. "This is a team sport and you can't do it by yourself. As a team we've been playing some very good hockey. You can't have this kind of streak without the whole team playing well."

Nashville has won three of its last four visits to Detroit. Predators left wing Paul Kariya has four goals and four assists in his last four games against the Red Wings.

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