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Red Wings' drive to playoffs continues vs. Predators

by Mike Battaglino /

PREDATORS (16-21-9) at RED WINGS (22-16-8)


Last 10: Nashville 2-7-1; Detroit 4-3-3

Season series: This is the last of four meetings, and last as Central Division rivals. The Detroit Red Wings won the most recent two, each by shutout, after losing the first in overtime.

Big story: In control of its destiny, Detroit won the first of three win-and-they're-in games, 3-1 against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. A victory here, then Saturday at the Dallas Stars, will put the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 22nd straight season.

“"We just go out and play like we should," captain Henrik Zetterberg told NBC Sports Network of the pressure the team faces. "We still have it in our own hands, and we've been playing pretty well lately, so we just keep doing that ... if we play like that we'll be fine."

The Nashville Predators have been eliminated from playoff contention, and a just-ended eight-game losing streak has them with the fourth-best chance to win the NHL Draft Lottery on Monday.

Team Scope:

Predators: Nashville has seen three forwards -- Filip Forsberg, Keith Henderson and Austin Watson -- get his first NHL point in the past week. Forsberg, an 18-year-old acquired in the trade that sent Martin Erat to the Washington Capitals, had an assist in the 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, his fourth NHL game.

"If you close your eyes and listen to Forsberg's shot when he releases it, it has that snap to it," coach Barry Trotz told The Tennessean. "That's what I like. He likes to shoot the puck, he has a little extra zip on it, and he's going to be a real good player for us. I'm excited, as a coach, for his future."

The team's website points out the average age of the forwards who played Tuesday is 25, and five have played fewer than 16 NHL games.

"It's got to be tough, but at the same time I'm sure they're excited to be playing in the NHL," captain Shea Weber said. "... I think once you get up and into these games, I think their adrenaline's running and they're excited to be back up."

The Tennessean reports the young forwards, including Daniel Bang, likely will go back and forth to the Milwaukee Admirals to participate in the American Hockey League playoffs. Forsberg and Watson were sent down Thursday, and forward Joonas Rask was called up.

"I think it's good," Watson said Tuesday. "Obviously the travel and your rest periods are a little bit shorter, but I think it's awesome. To be a young guy and getting to play a lot of hockey at the highest level and being able to make a difference with Milwaukee is incredible. We're looking forward to the end of the year (in Nashville), and the big playoff push with Milwaukee."

Red Wings: As one might expect, Pavel Datsyuk (goal, assist) and Zetterberg (two assists) came up with the standout performances in the victory against Los Angeles. But it was Jordin Tootoo who had the game-winning goal.

"[Thursday] the first five minutes is going to be the most important part," Tootoo told the team’s website. "Obviously, we played [Wednesday] and Nashville hasn't, so it's going to have to be about good leadership in the dressing room and about making good plays."

After a 3-for-26 run on the power play, the Red Wings are 4-for-9 in the past two games.

"Our problem hasn't been giving up goals, our problem has been scoring goals," coach Mike Babcock said. "... There was a long time there we lost games because we could never get that next [goal]."

Jimmy Howard has allowed more than two goals once in his past nine games.

"They've all felt like a playoff game for a while," Howard said. "It's just two more here and hopefully get the job done."

Who's hot: Predators forward Matt Halischuk has four points in his past two games, and defenseman Shea Weber has three points. Forward Bobby Butler has four points in a three-game streak. Rookie defenseman Victor Bartley has four points in his past five games. … Zetterberg has five points in his past two games. Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has 11 points in 11 April games.

Injury report: Predators forward Mike Fisher (hand) told The Tennessean he plans to play the final two games after missing 10. Forwards Taylor Beck (upper body), and Brandon Yip (lower body) are out. Including out-for-the-season veterans Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Paul Gaustad (shoulder), Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Colin Wilson (shoulder), a combined 2,072 games of experience at forward has been out of the lineup. … Franzen was unavailable late in the third period Wednesday because of an undisclosed injury. Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi (back, leg), who last played Feb. 7, could return Thursday. Forwards Darren Helm (back), Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral) and Drew Miller (hand) are out.

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