Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings
Bridgestone Arena, 7 pm
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee | Radio: 104.5 The Zone, Predators Radio Network
Isn’t this what we live for, Preds fans? Playoffs around the corner, and every game carries the weight of the world with it – playoff intensity and excitement, expectations of a possible post-season run, and of course the good old-fashioned fun that comes with a chance to beat Detroit!
Yes, those kooky Red Wings are back in town tonight, playing a role they’re not accustomed to: playoff bubble team. Sitting two points behind the Predators with a game in hand heading into tonight, the Red Wings are charging. They’ve won eight of the last ten, are for the most part healthy for the first time all season, and seem to have an emerging Calder Trophy candidate in goaltender Jimmy Howard. Special teams are clicking for the club, and for the first time all year they are starting to feel some consistency of effort night in and night out.
Despite all that, the Predators have had to earn their way to where they are right now, surprising many along the way with gritty play and the ability to find wins when they need it. Well, consider tonight one of those “we need it” type of games. If you’ve been waiting for a really good, high-intensity matchup, tonight is your night. I know that all games will have a high tempo to them this time of year, but each team in this rivalry has a bit of a chip on its shoulder, and I can’t wait to see that manifest itself on the ice tonight.
The Predators will once again be without Joel Ward and Jason Arnott, as well as defenseman Denis Grebeshkov for tonight’s game. Recent play from the line of Steve Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist
, and Marcel Goc has been a big positive for Nashville, and Dustin Boyd’s acquisition at the trade deadline has already benefitted the Preds in terms of depth and penalty killing. It didn’t hurt that Boyd had a great outing against the St. Louis Blues last week by netting a pair of goals that included the game winner.
As I mentioned before, Jimmy Howard has been very good for the Red Wings this year, and Pekka Rinne
has been playing as well as he has all season for Nashville. In the playoffs your goaltending can carry you a long way, and tonight may serve as a good preview of how each ‘tender will handle playoff-type pressure. I will add that Rinne has been there before on the AHL stage with the Milwaukee Admirals, taking them through two very deep Calder Cup playoff runs in his tenure there. I don’t expect this to be any different for him this time around.
Come on down tonight, the game promises to be fantastic!Notes:
Keys to the Game
- Detroit’s Patrick Eaves will appear in his 300th NHL game tonight.
- Nashville and Detroit have split the last ten games at Bridgestone Arena 5-5.
- Jimmy Howard became just the fourth goaltender in Wings history to record 30 wins in his rookie year, joining some pretty elite company: Terry Sawchuck, Roger Crozier, and Glenn Hall.
- Pekka Rinne has been arguably the hottest goaltender since the Olympic break, leading the NHL with nine wins (tied with Howard) and three shutouts. In his 11 starts since the break, he has posted a 1.96 GAA and .926 save percentage.
- Continuous effort. We saw what happens when you take the foot off the gas against Dallas, and then for a short stretch against Phoenix that allowed the Coyotes to get back in and grab a point. That can’t happen tonight against Detroit.
- Good puck movement. Breakouts, leads, even dump-ins have to be precise and well placed to avoid thwarting rushes. Nashville needs to be precise tonight in all three zones.
- Rebound goals. You don’t often see first shots get past Jimmy Howard, so putting pucks where he can’t cover them immediately and getting those rebounds is of the utmost importance.