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GAMEDAY: Predators vs. Red Wings; join me on NHL Home Ice at 1:45 EST

February 17, 2012, 11:34 AM ET [29 Comments]
Mark Spizzirri
Detroit Red Wings Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Detroit Red Wings, fresh off their 21st consectuive home victory on Tuesday night to set a National Hockey League record, will be looking to extend their streak on Friday night at the Joe as they host a Central division rival in the Nashville Predators.

This is the fourth of six season meeting between these two clubs, with the Red Wings currently holding a 2-1 advantage in the season series following a pair of 4-1 victories.

The obvious fear heading into tonight's clash is the possibility of an emotional letdown for the hockey club following Tuesday night's playoff-like atmosphere surrounding the Wings attempt to break the home win streak record. The fact tonight's opponent is Nashville likely is both a positive and a negative.

The Preds are not the type of team the Red Wings can afford to show up for 30 minutes and expect to pick up the 2 points as they did on a couple of occasions throughout their home stretch against the likes of Columbus and Edmonton. The Preds are 15-4-2 in their last 21 games played and as a result only sit 8 points back of Detroit despite the Red Wings phenomenal string of home wins.

Furthermore, the Predators have been excellent within the division this year, sporting a 13-2-2 record against their Central Divsion foes thus far this season. As a result, this isn't the team Detroit can afford to "let up" against and attempt to catch a breather.

The positive angle about facing Nashville this evening is that it provides Coach Mike Babcock with sufficient ammunition in attempting to ensure his troops come out with a similar surge to start tonight's contest as they did on Tuesday night vs. the Stars. Despite being on top of the National Hockey League's standings, the Red Wings hold only a narrow three point lead over the St. Louis Blues (one game in hand over Detroit) for the Central Division lead. Babcock will highlight the importance of keeping the "pedal to the metal" in order to try and nail down home ice advantage and avoid the dreaded #4 vs. #5 seed matchup in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs.

As for the game itself - Nashville's always been well-known as a system-oriented team that loves to play the body and protect their net. With talented goaltender Pekka Rinne in goal, the Predators rank a respectable 11th in the National Hockey League in goals against at 2.58. However, contrary to past years, the club hasn't struggled nearly as much offensively averaging a solid 2.77 goals per game, also good for 11th overall in the National Hockey League. A big reason for that has been their power-play, currently ranked 2nd overall with a 21.5% conversion rate.

Making the Red Wings task even more difficult are the absences of forwards Daniel Cleary (knee) and Henrik Zetterberg (lower-body injury). Both players participated in the team's optional skate this morning, but will not play. As a result, Justin Abdelkader will get promoted to the team's 2nd line between Valteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler. Tomas Tatar was recalled from Grand Rapids and will play alongside former Griffins Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak on the team's 4th line.


(Now the word filtering out is that Zetterberg might take the pregame skate and make a decision if he will play tonight shortly thereafter. If not, Tatar will be in for him. He obviously must have felt pretty good this morning and feels he could be able to give it a go tonight.)

Joey MacDonald will make his sixth consecutive start in goal for Detroit. Jimmy Howard has been a regular in practice most of the week and is expected to return to the crease on Sunday when Detroit hosts the San Jose Sharks.

What will be interesting following tonight's contest is whether the Wings keep MacDonald as the primary backup and maintain three goaltenders on the active NHL roster OR if they send MacDonald to Grand Rapids because they need the extra roster spot and would rather see MacDonald stay sharp by playing regularly. MacDonald's two-way contract provides Detroit with the luxury of being able to send him to the minors without having to clear waivers, something Ty Conklin would have to do if he were sent to the minors.

Will the streak continue? Find out tonight at 7:30 PM ET on Fox Sports Detroit.

Your probable lineup for this evening's contest.

Detroit Red Wings

Todd Bertuzzi - Pavel Datsyuk - Johan Franzen
Valteri Filppula - Justin Abdelkader - Jiri Hudler
Tomas Holmstrom - Darren Helm - Drew Miller
Tomas Tatar - Cory Emmerton - Jan Mursak

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore/Jakub Kindl



Join me today at 1:45 EST on NHL Home Ice (XM Channel 92, Sirius 207) as I join Jamie Shalley for a segment on the "Breakaway" Show to discuss all things Red Wing-related, including their historic streak and this weekend's tough pair of games.


Lastly, kudos to the Red Wings for hosting their first-ever outdoor practice Saturday afternoon at Clark Park in downtown Detroit. Especially with the upcoming 2013 Winter Classic, what a great way for the club to get out into the community and promote the game in the heart of the city.

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