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Wings, Predators jockey for positioning, home ice

by Brian Hedger
DETROIT -- It might be a preview to a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series when the Nashville Predators pay their last visit of the regular season to the Motor City to play the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

The Predators are currently fifth in the Western Conference at 96 points and trail the fourth-place Red Wings by just a point. A regulation victory would leapfrog Nashville past Detroit and possibly put the Preds in the driver's seat for home-ice advantage in the first round.

Jimmy Howard will make the start in goal for the Red Wings after missing the past four games with a nagging groin injury, while forward Martin Erat will get back into the lineup for Nashville after missing the past two games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

The last time Nashville was in Detroit, the Red Wings won the 22nd of their 23-game NHL record home winning streak in unlikely fashion. Time was running out in regulation of a 1-1 game when Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg connected on a pair of great passes to set up Pavel Datsyuk with a head of steam coming into the Nashville zone for one last scoring chance.

Datsyuk made a move to get around Ryan Suter in the slot and zipped a wrister into the top left corner of the net past star Preds goalie Pekka Rinne for a stunning victory.

"I'd say that was more like a flukey goal with five seconds left, but [Lidstrom] sees those things right away, even when he has his back turned," Preds forward Patric Hornqvist said after Nashville's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "He threw the puck up to [Zetterberg] and he chipped it to Datsyuk in the middle. They have those guys in their locker room who can really make it happen."

Needless to say, Nashville hasn't forgotten the feeling after that game despite beating Detroit once since then at Bridgestone Arena.

"That can't happen again," Hornqvist said. "We can't stop playing, even when there's five seconds left and they have the puck on the far blue line. That's the lesson we learned from that game."

Here's a look at how the Predators and Red Wings might line up on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena:

PREDATORS
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Alexander Radulov - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Matt Halischuk
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Jordin Tootoo

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Francis Bouillon - Kevin Klein

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

RED WINGS
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary
Tomas Holmstrom - Cory Emmerton - Gustav Nyquist

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin
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