The Nashville Predators wrap up their four-game homestand tonight when they host division rival Detroit. The Predators lead this season’s series with the Wings 1-0, courtesy of a 3-1 home win on November 23.
The Predators will face a Detroit team who had been struck with injuries this season – defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Andreas Lilja and forwards Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, and Jason Williams will all be out of the lineup tonight. While the Preds are aware of these absences on the ice they are not holding back anything in their play.
“I would be lying if I said we didn’t notice it but if we do all the things we’re suppose to do then it shouldn’t matter what the other team has,” Dave Scatchard stated this morning. “Obliviously those guys have fire power and if they are missing any of that then we need to take advantage.”
Head Coach for Nashville Barry Trotz is also looking to take advantage of the missing links in the Detroit team but knows it is still a team who can win. “Detroit has had a lot of injuries this year, but they know how to win and that’s why you never count the Red Wings out. They are still a good team; they are playing really sound defensively and they relay on that power play, it has been a big factor for them.”
“If you can get Detroit when they don’t have all their weapons, you want to take advantage of that. If they have them in (the lineup) or not you still have to win the game, that’s the bottom line.”
Beyond the normal Preds/Wings rivalry – and the emotion that brings from the players and fans – tonight’s game carries a significant impact on the Western Conference standings. Nashville currently sits seventh in the Western Conference with 38 points, just three points behind division leading (and conference No. 3 seed) Chicago, but also just three points ahead of Detroit, the No. 9 team in the conference standings. There are still many games to be played, but creating a cushion in the standings now helps come March and April.
“These games in the middle of December, January, February, they are what decide the playoff race.” Scatchard started to explain about the standings. “These games are absolutely huge. Any time you can get a little bit of a cushion it makes the other teams try to catch you a little bit more than they want to. It is defiantly easier to play when you’re ahead and when other teams are trying to catch you than when you’re trying to chase down everybody.”
Trotz made note of the closeness in the standing and stated there is not room for a break this season. Currently in the standings there are only five points that separate sixth and thirteenth place in the Conference; every point earned can help secure a place in the top eight.
“You don’t get a break; this year you’re not going to get a break. There isn’t a team that you can say we can ramp down our game and still get a win. You’re 30-odd games into the season and usually you have some separation but there is virtually no separation from 1 to 15 (in the conference standings).”