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Wings to wrap-up long and winding road

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Jonas Gustavsson brings a 1-0-1 lifetime record and 2.45 GAA against the Predators into Saturday afternoon's game in Nashville. (Photo by Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Getting started on time as been problematic at times for the Red Wings. So today’s early start time against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena could pose a different set of challenges for the Red Wings who are playing in just their third afternoon game of the season.

The Red Wings are concluding a six-game road trip, and a stretch of 17 of the past 23away from Joe Louis Arena. In that span Detroit has compiled a 14-6-2 record and remains in third place in the Atlantic Division with 79 points.

Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson will start for the fifth time this season, just the second time since returning from a lengthy shoulder injury. He is 2-2-1 with a 1.90 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage.

The plan all along was to give Jimmy Howard a couple of breaks while getting Gustavsson some work on this long trip, coach Mike Babcock said. Gustavsson played well in the Wings’ 1-0 loss at Los Angeles Tuesday.

“Howie played and we had tough travel yesterday and I just think it’s giving your guys the fairest chance and we need Gus to be good in the first 10 minutes. We didn’t skate yesterday. We’re gonna have to do good job in warmup to get ourselves ready to go. That first 10 minutes is going to be big for us today.”

The Red Wings have trailed at the first intermission in each of the past two games – the loss to the Kings and the 3-2 comeback win at San Jose. So jumping out to a fast start will be critical.

The only other possible chance to the Wings’ lineup may be along the blue line, where defenseman Brendan Smith will be a game-time decision. He was struck in the right hand by a Brent Burns’ slap shot late in Thursday’s win over the Sharks.

As a precaution, the Wings have recalled Xavier Ouellet, who will play if Smith isn’t ready.

“(Smith) obviously wasn’t feeling good enough yesterday to make that decision, so we covered the bases and then we’ll make a decision after warmup,” Babcock said.

The Red Wings and Predators are the only NHL teams without consecutive losses in regulation this season. Nashville is 11-0-2 while Detroit is 10-0-5 in games following 60-minute losses.

The last time the Wings and Predators both lost back-to-back games in regulation was last March. Detroit dropped 4-2 and 5-4 decisions to Columbus and Montreal, respectively.

The Predators (41-14-7), who lead the league with a 89 points, suffered a 4-2 home loss to Minnesota on Thursday.

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