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Morning Skate: Game 17 vs. Detroit

UPDATE (1:30 PM CT): Preds, Wings renew acquaintances

For the first time since the two teams squared off last April, the Predators and Red Wings will do battle tonight at Bridgestone Arena. In what was their third-ever playoff meeting, the Predators edged Detroit in a memorable five-game first-round series last spring.

“It was a great series and obviously we played really strong,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “It’s always a tight matchup between us and them. Both teams know what to expect from each other. It’s always exciting to play against Detroit. It’s a rivalry. You always use Detroit as the measuring stick.”

Both teams are searching for some consistency while dealing with the loss of a great defenseman, as Ryan Suter and Nicklas Lidstrom no longer patrol either team’s blue line. Each side is trying to keep up with the joneses in the Western Conference. Three points, and four spots in the standings, separate Nashville and Detroit from one another.

The Red Wings come in riding a three-game losing streak in which they have blown leads. Even without Lidstrom and the fact they aren’t playing their best hockey, the Red Wings are still a dangerous team. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have 20 and 16 points, respectively, more than Colin Wilson’s team-leading 12 points for the Predators.

“You never replace a guy like Lidstrom, whose done so many things to that organization,” Rinne said. “But they still are obviously a really strong team. They are always dangerous.”

The Predators, meanwhile, will try to put yesterday’s 6-5 loss in Colorado in the rear-view mirror as quick as possible.

“You don’t want to see what happened yesterday, but at the same time you can’t dwell on it,” head coach Barry Trotz said of the controversial blown offsides call that overshadowed the wild game itself. “We’ve got a game tonight and it’s a four-point game.”

The Predators will be without Paul Gaustad tonight, who suffered an upper-body injury against the Avalanche. Expect Brandon Yip to draw back into the lineup.

***

7:00 PM CT – Detroit Red Wings (7-6-2) @ Nashville Predators (7-4-5)
TV: FS Tennessee
Radio: 102.5 The Game

Last time out:
DET- Sunday evening in Minnesota, things were looking up for the Red Wings as they held a 2-0 lead early in the second period. The game got away from rookie netminder Petr Mrazek, though, as he surrendered three unanswered goals en route to a 3-2 loss. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg each collected two points in the team’s third consecutive loss.
NSH- Last night the Predators made the long flight home from Denver after an uncharacteristic 6-5 loss against the Avalanche. The second period featured seven goals combined between the two teams, as the Avalanche chased Chris Mason after six goals on 18 shots. The Preds, down 6-3 late in the second, made things interesting but fell short.

Players to watch:
DET- Niklas Kronwall
Between the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and a rash of injuries, Kronwall is having to log big minutes for the Red Wings. His 10 points are fourth on the team, but his minus-9 rating is last.
NSH- Patric Hornqvist
After missing three-plus weeks, Hornqvist returned from injury yesterday afternoon in Denver. He was more than effective, getting 12 shots on net and generating many chances in close.

Projected starting goaltenders:
DET- Jimmy Howard (2012-13 stats: 6-5-2, 2.97 GAA)
NSH- Pekka Rinne (2012-13 stats: 6-3-4, 1.58 GAA)

Projected lineups from last game/practice:

Detroit Red Wings
Offense
Pavel Datsyuk Henrik Zetterberg Damien Brunner
Daniel Cleary Valterri Filppula Mikael Samuelsson
Drew Miller Cory Emmerton Jordin Tootoo
Tomas Tatar Joakim Andersson Justin Abdelkader
Patrick Eaves
Defense Goalie
Niklas Kronwall Brian Lashoff Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Ericsson Ian White Jonas Gustavsson
Kyle Quincey Kent Huskins
Jakub Kindl
Nashville Predators
Offense
Colin Wilson David Legwand Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque Mike Fisher Sergei Kostitsyn
Craig Smith Nick Spaling Patric Hornqvist
Richard Clune Paul Gaustad Matt Halischuk
Brandon Yip
Defense Goalie
Scott Hannan Shea Weber Pekka Rinne
Roman Josi Kevin Klein Chris Mason
Jonathon Blum Ryan Ellis
Hal Gill

*Lineups are subject to change

Injury report:
DET- Jan Mursak (shoulder, questionable), Johan Franzen (hip, out), Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm (back, out), Carlo Colaiacovo and Brendan Smith (shoulder, out)
NSH- Paul Gaustad (upper body, out)

Keys to the game:
DET- Finish… In each of the Red Wings’ three consecutive losses, they have failed to close the deal while holding a lead. If Mike Babcock’s club puts forth a 60-minute effort tonight, it will only help their cause against a Predators team that is always amped up to face them, but on the second end of a back-to-back.
NSH- Slow down Zetterberg… Zetterberg and Datsyuk are both lethal in their own right. If you shut down one, the other one can burn you. But if you had to pick one to focus on it’d be Zetterberg, who has 20 points in 15 games and is an early-season Hart Trophy candidate. You can bet he’ll see a lot of Shea Weber tonight.

Numbers to know:
- 2011-12 season series vs. Detroit: Tied 3-3
- 2012 Western Conference Quarterfinals: 4-1 Predators
- The Preds are 3-1-3 at home this season … Detroit is 2-3-1 on the road.
- Since the start of 2008-09, the Preds are 7-2-3 at home against the Red Wings.
- Last season the Preds were 5-6-0 on the second half of back-to-backs; this season they are 1-1-0.
- Pekka Rinne is 11-5-3 with a 2.29 GAA and .932 save percentage in 19 career games vs. Detroit. His counterpart, Jimmy Howard, is 6-5-1 with a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage in 13 career games vs. Nashville.
- David Legwand has 40 points in 63 career games vs. Detroit.
- Sergei Kostitsyn has 9 points in 13 career games vs. Detroit.
- Power play: Nashville (15.1%, 22nd) … Detroit (13.9%, 25th)
- Penalty kill: Nashville (84.5%, 6th) … Detroit (75.4%, 24th)

Remember when?
In Game 4 of the 2004 Western Conference Quarterfinals, Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun dominated Detroit to help tie the series at 2-2. Vokoun stopped all 41 shots that came his way in a 3-0 shutout victory on home ice…

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