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Game Day Blog: Preds at Detroit

by Tom Callahan / Nashville Predators
Nashville at Detroit Preview

Game Time 6:30 pm CST
FSTN, The Zone, Predators Radio Network

Tonight the Preds meet up with the Red Wings and both teams find themselves fighting to stay in the playoff picture. Passing similarities in the season thus far for both teams include injury jags, getting the game together and losing it, and goaltending inconsistencies. Of course, that’s a pretty simple nutshell version of the events, but it helps.

The Wings are far from being the infamous “Dead Wings” teams of the late 70s and early 80s but are struggling as they age with injuries and consistency issues. Of course, any team losing key free agents like the Red Wings did (how much do they miss Hossa?) could be forgiven for stumbling. But that’s not how they do things here in Hockeytown. The culture bred here is win – always. To that end they still have a lot of talent, but are having to find different ways to win hockey games. Defense is at more of a premium these days instead of goal scoring, and when they get good goaltending (like any NHL team) they can win the majority of the games. Nicklas Lidstrom is still strong, leading the team at +20 and as smooth and efficient as ever. When he missed 10 games earlier this year, the Wings lost nine of them. Think he’s important?

The emergence of Jimmy Howard over Chris Osgood has been a bit surprising but not totally unexpected. Osgood has posted his best numbers in Detroit, but as a veteran goalie on the downside of his career, the Wings needed Howard to appear. (aside: we’ll hear from Jimmy in the pre-game show on radio tonight) He’s finally taken the steps that look to make him the team’s #1 guy for the foreseeable future – now it’s up to him to hold the reins.

That all being said, there are some holes in the Wings. They’ve given up 33 goals in the last nine games played! They failed to score timely goals or hold leads against teams like Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Phoenix – a game in which the Coyotes rallied from two goals back with under a two minutes to go and won in overtime. Confidence may be a bit shaky, and opponents have been able to wade to the front of the Detroit net much easier than in previous seasons.

But this club will still have that mystique. Mike Babcock won’t let them quit. And they have tremendous veteran leadership that starts with Lidstrom and goes down to players like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Draper. Even Barry Trotz concedes that Detroit’s leaders are its hardest working players – and that means no passengers in the locker room.

So look for a good battle tonight from both clubs. It won’t be easy, but it could be a good tonic for the Preds.

· Nashville looks to end a four-game skid tonight in Detroit. With a win, the Preds can claim victory in Joe Louis Arena for the third straight time – a franchise record.

· Jason Williams is back in tonight, but it will be one more game before Tomas Holmstrom is able to go at the earliest. Whew!

· Chris Osgood’s last win was December 12 against Nashville. He has made only four starts since, losing three and earning a no decision against the Islanders in the other. Jimmy Howard will start tonight for Detroit.

Callahan’s Keys:
· Hard and heavy pressure in front of the Wings net. It worked very well for Phoenix, and if Patric Hornqvist is raring to go tonight, he could be rewarded for his efforts.

· Help your goaltender. Dan Ellis makes some great saves, but he can’t do it alone. Detroit’s transition game is still pretty darn good, and neutral zone mistakes are going to end up as scoring chances. Keep puck possession and get it into Detroit’s end by hook or by crook.

· Attack! Yes, this is still a pretty powerful Detroit team, but we need to go kick some tail with our forecheck and by staying aggressive. We don’t need to blow them into the seats with hits, but it never hurts, either. Disrupt the flow of the Wings, and you’ll have moved yourself much closer to a win.
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