Henrik Zetterberg finally snapped out of his season-high scoring slump with a natural hat trick. The NHL-leading Detroit Red Wings hope he can build on that performance Thursday when they open a three-game road trip against the struggling Nashville Predators.
Zetterberg, who leads Detroit (48-20-6) with 39 goals and is second with 83 points, recorded his third-career hat trick in a 11:58 span of the third period to help the Red Wings rally past Columbus 3-1 on Wednesday. The victory salvaged a split of the home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets after Zetterberg was held without a goal for a seventh consecutive game in Detroit's 4-3 road defeat Monday.
"It's a great confidence builder for him to get back on the scoresheet again," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "He's had a lot of chances. He's been snake bit a little bit, not being able to score."
|The Red Wings' Henrik Zetterberg had a natural hat trick against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday but he has not scored a goal against the Predators in the last four meetings between the two teams. Detroit visits Nashville tonight. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
Zetterberg, though, has not scored in the last four meetings against Nashville (36-30-8), and has only one goal, two assists and a minus-8 rating in six games this season.
The Red Wings, who lead the Western Conference by seven points over San Jose, have alternated wins and losses with the Predators in the six games. Detroit hopes that trend continues after it lost 3-1 at home to Nashville on Saturday despite outshooting the Preds 12-6 in the third period.
Chris Osgood took the loss in that contest, allowing two goals on 26 shots. It was his second consecutive defeat to the Predators, who beat him for three goals on four shots in the first 8:49 of a 4-2 Red Wings loss at Nashville on Feb. 12.
While Osgood was much better Wednesday in making 22 saves, the Red Wings could opt for Dominik Hasek, who was chased in the second period of his last start Monday after allowing four goals on 10 shots.
Hasek, though, has won each of his last four starts against Nashville with a 2.00 goals-against average and a shutout.
The Predators are on a five-game home losing streak, which has severely dented their playoff hopes. Another loss at Sommet Center would match their franchise-record six-game slide set from Jan. 21-Feb. 15, 1999, and matched Feb. 26-March 21, 2002.
Nashville, which has qualified for the playoffs each of the last three seasons, is ninth in the West, four points behind Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado - all tied for sixth.
"We pretty much need to win the rest of the games in order for us to stay with it," Preds center Jason Arnott said of the team's eight remaining games.
The Predators' home woes continued Tuesday, falling behind by three goals in the first period before losing 4-2 to Washington - their fourth loss in five games overall.
"We lost the game in the first," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought we just stood around and watched and did not participate. It was just an unacceptable start and execution."
Nashville could use some better play in goal as both Chris Mason and Dan Ellis are struggling.
Ellis started against the Capitals, but was pulled midway through the first period for allowing three goals on eight shots, including an ill-advised clearing pass that was intercepted and converted into a goal. Mason made 12 saves, but hasn't won since Feb. 12. He's 0-3-2 with a 4.83 goals-against average in five starts since.
Ellis has lost three of his last four starts with all of the defeats coming at home with a 3.65 GAA. The one victory in that span came at Detroit, where Ellis made 33 saves.