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Wings start tough trip in Nashville

by John Kreiser
RED WINGS (44-21-3) at PREDATORS (39-21-7)

TV: FS-Detroit; FS-Tennessee

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

Season Series:
It's the fifth of six meeting this season between the Central Division rivals. Detroit has won three of the first four, including a 4-1 victory at Bridgestone Arena on the day after Christmas in their last visit to Nashville.

Big Story: If there were ever a game set up for the Preds to beat their biggest rivals, this would be it. The injury-riddled Wings are missing several key players, including Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and goaltender Jimmy Howard, and are playing the second half of a back-to-back. But the Wings just keep finding ways to win -- Friday's 4-3 victory against Los Angeles moved them within two points of first-place St. Louis.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: The Wings had only eight shots through two periods against L.A. and finished with only 15, the fewest they've had in a game in nearly eight years. But they overcame three one-goal deficits against All-Star goaltender Jonathan Quick before Darren Helm put them ahead to stay with 1:13 left in regulation.

Detroit's lineup on Friday included a half-dozen players called up from AHL Grand Rapids and others, like Helm, playing more pivotal roles.

"Obviously, it was a grind out-fest," coach Mike Babcock said. "Every time you put your uniform on you expect to win and yet some nights are more challenging than others, and this was one of them. We hung in there, hung around, got good goaltending and won a game.''

Predators: Nashville coach Barry Trotz shook up his lineup following Tuesday's 5-4 loss to Los Angeles and got the results he wanted against Colorado two nights later. Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk made the most of their chance to play; Yip scored the go-ahead goal and Halischuk set up Sergei Kostitsyn for what proved to be the game-winner.

The Predators were much more focused than they were against the Kings, and the results spoke for themselves.

"When we're attached to the game emotionally and physically, as we were last night, you see the results," Trotz said after Friday's practice.

Who's Hot: Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg has stepped up in the absence of Datsyuk -- he had his first two-goal game in nearly a year on Friday and has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points in his last 16 games. … Nashville's Martin Erat now has goals in consecutive games; he also has 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in his last 29 games. …

Injury Report: The Wings hope that Datsyuk (knee surgery), Lidstrom (ankle) and Howard (groin strain) during next week's swing through California. They also hope Todd Bertuzzi (groin) will be back next week. Defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (broken wrist) and Jakub Kindl (upper body) are also out, as is forward Patrick Eaves (concussion). … Nashville's Kevin Klein remains out with an upper-body injury.

Stat Pack: Each team boasts one of the most accurate shooters in the NHL. Detroit's Jiri Hudler has 20 goals on only 93 shots, a 21.5 percent success rate. Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn had scored 17 times on just 76 shots (22.4 percent).

Puck Drop: The Predators matched a franchise record with their 19th sellout of the season on Thursday. The record is guaranteed to fall on Saturday -- this game was sold out in advance.

The Predators have given their fans plenty to cheer about -- they are 11-1-2 in their last 14 home games and have allowed two goals or fewer 12 times during that span.

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