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Red Wings look to get untracked vs. Predators

by David Kalan

PREDATORS (9-9-2) at RED WINGS (9-5-7)


Last 10: Nashville 4-5-1; Detroit 3-1-6

Season series: This is the first meeting of the season between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings won three of four games between the former division rivals in 2012-13.

Big story: For Nashville's entire history one of its biggest rivals in the League was Detroit, but now that the Red Wings play in the Eastern Conference, those meetings will only come twice a year. The one-time rivals will meet Tuesday as slumping Detroit tries to make a move in the Atlantic Division against a Predators team that is struggling to keep pace in the competitive Central.

Team Scope:

Predators: For teams that struggle offensively, the game in which they break out and light up the scoreboard is always a relief. Hanging seven goals on the defending champions after a seven-game, 17-day road trip is particularly refreshing. One can ask the Predators to know just how refreshing it is, as they beat-up the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks 7-2 this past Saturday. It was Nashville's first game at home in more than two weeks, and it came on the heels of a four-game losing streak in which the Predators scored just two goals.

"Yes, it felt great," center Craig Smith said following the win Saturday. "It's been a long time. It's been a tough couple of games. I thought we did a great job sticking with it."

Nashville's reward is to go right back on the road to visit Detroit and then the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. After that, however, the Predators will be home for six of their next seven games, which should give them a chance to regroup. Nashville's losing streak dropped it to last place in the Central, but the Predators remain at .500 and have only lost two games in regulation at home.

Red Wings: Few venues in the NHL carry the gravitas and atmosphere one can find in Joe Louis Arena, but lately home hasn't been so sweet for the Red Wings. Detroit has lost its past seven games at the Joe, a remarkable total considering the Wings lost a grand total of 10 games there in their last full 82-game season. Those losses have taken a toll on Detroit, which played four of its past five games at home and opens another three-game homestand Tuesday.

"It's been tough here for us but it's not like something's miraculously going to happen for us to get out of this," Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It's going to take hard work and the right attitude."

Despite those home struggles, Detroit hasn't fallen too far off the pace in the log-jammed Atlantic. All of those extra points in overtime and shootout losses have kept the Red Wings within three points of the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning, meaning a run at not only a playoff spot, but the division title is far from a longshot with three quarters of the season still to play.

Who's hot: Smith led the way for Nashville in its blowout victory against Chicago, scoring a goal and adding two assists. ... Pavel Datsyuk has four goals in his past three games for Detroit.

Injury report: After missing Nashville's game Saturday, left wing Eric Nystrom (upper-body injury) is questionable to return against Detroit. Goalie Pekka Rinne (hip infection) is out until late December … Defenseman Brendan Smith (separated shoulder) is expected to return to the lineup for the Red Wings, who are expecting to be without their two big offseason acquisitions as center Stephen Weiss and right wing Daniel Alfredsson are both battling groin injuries.

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