Red Wings-Predators Preview
GAME: Detroit Red Wings (27-10-3) at Nashville Predators (25-11-3).
TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.
A battle between the top two teams in the Central Division should be the main story when the division-leading Detroit Red Wings visit the Nashville Predators. However, both teams will more than likely take a moment to remember what took place the last time they met.
Squaring off for the first time since a seizure on the bench nearly cost Detroit defenseman Jiri Fischer his life, the Red Wings and Predators will get back to hockey at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
On Nov. 21 in Detroit, the Red Wings were trailing 1-0 in the opening period when Fischer, a 25-year-old native of the Czech Republic, collapsed on the Detroit bench.
Fischer, who had just come off a shift, laid motionless while medical personnel rushed to his aid. The arena fell silent as CPR was administered by team physician Dr. Tony Colucci before Fischer was taken off the bench on a stretcher.
By the time Fischer arrived at the hospital, he had improved so much that he was talking and described as being in good spirits when visited by his teammates. Just last month, he indicated that he was not only thankful to be alive after the frightening incident, but that he hopes to play in the NHL again.
"Life without hockey, I hope I don't have to face it for some time," Fischer said in December.
The Red Wings and Predators decided to postpone the remainder of the game that night, and will now play for the first time in what is shaping up as a brilliant season for each squad.
Nashville is just four points behind Western Conference-leading Detroit in the Central even after a four-game losing streak, which the Predators snapped with Wednesday's 4-3 victory at St. Louis.
Things didn't start out well for the Predators, who watched goaltender Chris Mason give up goals on the first two shots he faced. However, Tomas Vokoun replaced Mason and restored order by making 18 saves as the Predators rallied behind Vernon Fiddler's first career two-goal game and additional tallies from Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya.
The Predators improved to 15-0-2 when leading after two periods this season.
The Red Wings stretched their lead in the division with Thursday's 3-0 win over the Blues.
Manny Legace made 15 saves in his return from an injured right knee, and Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper and Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit, which has won six of its last seven games.
Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman also made his return to the ice after being out since Dec. 9 with a groin injury. Yzerman has appeared in just 22 of 40 games this season because of two groin injuries.
Legace had been out since injuring his knee Nov. 25. He set a league record with 10 wins in October.
STANDINGS: Red Wings - 57 points, 1st place, Central Division. Predators - 53 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Red Wings - Brendan Shanahan, 20 goals; Nicklas Lidstrom, 30 assists; Datsyuk, 45 points; Chris Chelios, 64 PIM. Predators - Sullivan, 18 goals; Kimmo Timonen, 24 assists; Kariya, 36 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 98 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Red Wings - Power play: 24.9 percent (57 for 229), 1st in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.4 percent (199 for 233), 2nd (tied). Predators - Power play: 18.2 percent (48 for 263), 13th. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (218 for 257), 5th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Red Wings - Legace (14-4-0, 3 SO, 2.19 GAA); Chris Osgood (12-4-3, 0, 2.81). Predators - Vokoun (20-8-2, 1, 2.59); Mason (4-2-1, 0, 3.20).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Predators, 3-2.
LAST MEETING: March 14, 2004; Red Wings, 3-2 (OT). At Detroit, Shanahan completed a hat trick 40 seconds into overtime as the Red Wings won their second straight from the Predators after losing the first three meetings in the season series.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Wings - 13-4-2 on the road; Predators - 16-4-0 at home.