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Notebook: Wings face 'big' challenge

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Up next for the Red Wings is one of their biggest nemeses – Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.

The Predators’ 28-year-old goaltender from Kempele, Finland, is 3-1 in four starts at Joe Louis Arena. His numbers in those road outings have been average at best – a 3.43 goals-against average and a .844 save percentage, yet allowing only 14 goals has been enough to lead the Predators to three wins over their Central Division rivals.

Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard has some insight on Rinne and talked about his determination to stop shots at any price.

“He’s aggressive,” Howard said. “He’s tough to beat when he sees pucks. When he sees it, he’ll stop it. He just competes out there when you watch him. He never gives up, no matter what situation he’s in. Whether he got beat or not, he’ll find a way to get a piece of it, get some equipment on it.”

Rinne has had just as much success against the Wings in Nashville. His overall record against Detroit is 6-2-2, with a 2.17 GAA, a .934 save percentage, and three shutouts. The shutouts against the Wings are the most that he has against any team.

Wings center Kris Draper said his team doesn’t pay attention to the statistics Rinne has posted against them, just that Rinne is playing well and they need to work hard in front of his crease.

“We just know we’re playing a big goaltender that is playing well,” Draper said. “It seems he’s playing well no matter who he’s playing. It’s that commitment to be a lot more physical in front of him and in front of the net to really battle and get those goals. That’s the way you’re going to score. Second and third efforts, that’s something we have to be a lot better at. Those are the goals you need to score in the playoffs, so we might as well start now.”

Draper hopes the Wings can build off their 3-2 win Monday over the New York Rangers. Detroit had been held scoreless in their prior two games before winning on home ice against their Original Six rival.

“Really just play the whole game like we played the third period,” said Draper, of the win over the Rangers. “Obviously we didn’t score, but we made him make a lot of big saves. We’ve gotta get pucks to the net for sure, try to get rebounds, those ugly goals. If (Rinne) sees it, he’s going to stop it. He’s playing that well right now.”

Rinne has found success against the majority of the Central Division. He has eight wins over the St. Louis (his most wins against any NHL team), seven against Columbus, and six against Chicago and the Wings. Traditionally, Rinne also performs better after the All-Star break; his goals-against and save percentage both improve, and his record is 32-14-6 after the January break.

Jiri Hudler said the Wings will try to wear Rinne out throughout the game.

“A lot of shots,” the Wings’ forward said when asked on how to beat the Predators’ netminder. “Obviously he’s playing really well for them, and he’s big. He reads the plays really good. So shoot, shoot, shoot, and make those second and third chances.”

HOLMSTROM RETURNING SOON: Tomas Holmstrom talked to the media after Tuesday’s practice, and said that if all goes according to plan, he will be back in the line-up Wednesday against the Predators.

“The goal is to go (Wedensday) as long as there isn’t a setback,” Holmstrom said. “It felt pretty good.”

Coach Mike Babcock said he will wait until Wednesday’s morning skate to decide on whether Holmstrom will play in his first game since breaking his hand.

“We’ll see in the morning,” Babcock said. “All things indicate that, but we’ll see how it feels in the morning. If it still feels like that, he’ll go.“

FILPPULA OUT: Babcock paused his media conference today to get the most up-to-date status on Valtteri Filppula he could. The Wings’ coach said that Filppula was in the midst of an MRI on his left knee, and that he will not play against Nashville. The Wings’ forward sustained the injury during the second period of Monday’s 3-2 win over the Rangers.

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