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Pre-Series Musings: vs. Detroit

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
With Chicago's shootout win in Detroit this afternoon, the Preds secured the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs against the No. 5 seed Red Wings, the third time the Preds and Wings have met in the post-season, but the first time that Nashville owns home ice advantage.

The teams skated to a 3-3-0 draw during the regular season series, with all six games decided in regulation. Both teams won twice on home ice and once on the road. Detroit won three of the first four meetings, all in the first half of the season, while Nashville won the last two meetings, both in March after the 2012 Trade Deadline.

With so much history between the two Central Division rivals, take a look a three musings from the regular season showdowns...

Russian Showdown: Pavel Datsyuk is considered by many to be the most complete two-way contributor in the NHL; since returning from the KHL in late March Alexander Radulov has been the Preds most dynamic offensive player. Last Friday when the Preds and Wings met in Detroit, Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock opted to match Datsyuk and defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom against Radulov's line. If that match-up remains in place, the winner of the head-to-head match-up between the two talented Russian forwards may very well determine the balance of power in the series.

Super-Star Goaltender Battle: Since becoming No. 1 goaltenders during the 2009-10 season, Pekka Rinne and Jimmy Howard rank among the NHL's elite goaltenders in all major statisical categories. Howard is tied for fourth in the NHL with 109 wins the past three seasons, while Rinne's 108 wins (heading into tonight's game at Colorado) is tied for sixth. Rinne's .922 combined save percentage the last three seasons is fourth best in the league -- and best in the Western Conference -- over that span; Howard's .917 save percentage ranks 16th. And Rinne's 2.34 combined goals against average sits sixth in the league, compared to Howard's 2.40 GAA (10th best).

Norris-Quality Captains: Nashville captain Shea Weber was a Norris Trophy runner-up last season and will likely be one of the three finalists for the award again this season. Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom won last season's Norris Trophy, the seventh of his career. The two captains are unquestionably among the best defensemen in the NHL. And both have had several career highlights during past Preds/Wings match-ups. During the 2011-12 regular season series, Weber posted three points (all goals) in five games, while averaging 25:07 ice time per game, and Lidstrom recorded one goal and one assist in five games, while averaging 22:15 ice time per game.

1) NSH G Pekka Rinne - 3-3-0, 2.67 GAA, .920 SV%; made 183 saves in 6 games (30.5 saves per game); made perhaps the NHL's save of the season Mar. 31 at Detroit, the play of the game in Nashville's win (perhaps the difference between home ice advantage for the this series).
2) DET F Pavel Datsyuk - 2 goals, 3 assists, +4; averaged a point per game in 5 series appearances; 2 game-winning goals, including GWG with 5 seconds left on Feb. 17
3) DET F Henrik Zetterberg - 2 goals, 4 assists, +3; series-high 6 points; had at least one point in five of the six games this season; named one of the in-arena 3 Stars in two of the six series meetings.

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