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Notebook: Getting to the net is key

by Dave Burke / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – When the Red Wings host division rival Nashville tonight, they can expect to face what every other team has faced this season – a tough as nails defense.

The Predators have been exceptional in their own end this season and rank fourth in the NHL with a 2.33 goals against average to go along with an 85.8 percent efficiency rate on the penalty kill, which ranks third overall.

The Wings know all about Nashville, being a Central Division rival since the Predators entered the league in 1998. They also know where the Preds’ defensive success stems from.

“I think goaltending is a big part of it, but also the system they play,” Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Keeping teams on the outside and not giving up those clear cut chances. I think the biggest asset is the system that they’re playing.” 

So how should the Wings approach this challenging defense?

“They have very mobile and skilled defensemen. They’re big and they have got a good goalie,” Wings forward Patrick Eaves said. “I think if we can just get it behind them and then have pressure on them when they’re touching the puck right away that will be our best chance to hopefully force them to make plays that they normally wouldn’t want to make.” 

The Predators know that their defense – led by goalie Pekka Rinne, and defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber – defines them as a team.

“It starts in net with Peks and then on the backend with Sutes, Web and myself,” said Predators rookie defenseman Shane O’Brien. “We know we’re not going to run-and-gun with most teams. We start with defense.”

Weber agrees, saying, “Starts with good drafts, I think we drafted a D-man in the first round three out of four years.”

Weber, one of the top defenseman in the league, was drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft, while Suter was taken in the first round that same year.

HIGH RIVAL PRAISE: Nashville coach Barry Trotz, a 2010 Jack Adams Award finalist, has seen plenty of the Wings, being the only coach the Predators have ever known.

He still enjoys watching the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Lidstrom.

“To me Pavel Datsyuk is the most complete player in the NHL,” Trotz said. “I marvel at his ability, he has so much joy in his game. He’s so strong on the puck. When you see him off the ice you would say he can’t be that strong, but he is strong on the puck and on his feet. He has second and third efforts on pucks and that’s why he is such a great player. I have nothing but admiration for Pavel. Mike (Babcock) must wake up every morning and go, ‘Hey I got Pavel Datsyuk, that’s pretty cool.’ ” 

As for the Wings’ captain, Trotz said that he always sees Lidstrom in the right position.

“You never see Nick Lidstrom under pressure,” Trotz said. “He never comes straight back so he can get hit it the back (by a fore checker). He has a little bit of an angle, a little bit of a technique. That might be a little bit of coaching and intelligence and the experience Nick has. It’s why you never see Nick get hit. When he’s under pressure he leverages himself by slowing up and then there’s no big hit, just slight impact. Then he’s got the best hands and smarts in the business.”

INJURY UPDATE: Babcock said that forward Valtteri Filppula has a sprained knee and is week to week.

“He’s not day to day, he’s week to week and we’ll see how he does,” Babcock said. “We would obviously like to have all hands on deck and see what kind of hockey team we have.”

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