The Detroit Red Wings may not have to repeat last season's dominance of the Nashville Predators to earn the top spot in the Western Conference again.
Boasting a comfortable lead in the Central Division, the Red Wings look to continue their success against the Predators when the division rivals continue their season series Thursday night.
Detroit's success against Nashville in 2006-07 helped it earn the No. 1 seed in the West. The Red Wings went 6-1-1 against the Predators and finished the season with 113 points, three ahead of Nashville.
So far, Detroit (15-8-1) already has a six-point lead in the conference. The Red Wings' eight-point lead over Chicago in the Central Division is the largest division lead in the NHL.
Nashville (10-8-2), meanwhile, is in a three-way tie for third place in the Central.
The Red Wings won their first contest with the Predators this season 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 7, improving to 14-3-3 against Nashville since losing the previous three meetings.
Henrik Zetterberg, who converted in the shootout with the Predators, had a goal in regulation as the Red Wings defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-0 win on Wednesday night. Zetterberg, having an outstanding season with 15 goals and 31 points, has a four-game point streak against the Predators (three goals, six points).
Mikael Samuelsson added a goal, and Chris Osgood made 12 saves for his first shutout of the season Wednesday to give Detroit consecutive wins following a season-worst three-game losing streak.
It was Osgood's first shutout since March 1, 2006, against Anaheim. He is 16-5-1 with two ties and a 2.22 goals-against average in 24 games against the Predators.
For Samuelsson, Wednesday's goal was just his third of the season.
"It's always fun to score goals. I've been waiting quite a while for this one, and hopefully I get more," Samuelsson said.
Samuelsson finalized Detroit's three-goal margin, making it easier to rest some of its starters with a quick turnaround between games. Red Wings center Tomas Kobecky didn't return after injuring a shoulder in the second period, and he's uncertain for Thursday's contest.
Nashville may be without center Jason Arnott (neck), who is second on the team with seven goals and 17 points. He sat out the Predators' 2-1 loss to St. Louis on Monday night, and is listed as day-to-day.
Monday's contest was Nashville's first loss in regulation since falling 5-1 to Calgary on Oct. 30. The Predators were 6-0-2 in November before losing to the Blues.
Radek Bonk scored late in the third for Nashville's lone goal Monday. The Predators' last 13 tallies have come at even strength, and they have not found the back of the net in their last 16 power-play opportunities.
Chris Mason, meanwhile, has settled down after a tough start, posting a 4-1-2 record and a 2.22 GAA in his last seven games. He is 2-2-1 with a 2.92 GAA in eight games against the Red Wings and stopped 43 shots in regulation in the last meeting.
"He is doing everything we expected of him," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "He is seeing the puck well, and playing with confidence."