The Detroit Red Wings host the Nashville Predators this afternoon in what could be a preview of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The puck drops at 3:00 ET.
It is the fifth meeting between these two teams this season. The Wings won November 7th (3-2 SO) and December 10th (2-1). The Predators won November 22nd (3-2) and February 12th (4-2).
The teams meet again on March 15th, 20th, and 30th to wrap up the eight game regular season series.
Nashville (35-26-8) began March with a 3-1 win in Dallas. The win snapped a three-game skid that began in the final week of February. They also won their next game, a 5-1 decision over Edmonton on the 4th. They then lost two nights later in Vancouver, 6-2. On the 7th, they defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1 in overtime.
Today's game is the last of a six-game road trip that began in Buffalo on the 27th with an 8-4 loss.
With the Canucks' 4-2 win over St. Louis last night, the Predators fell from 8th to 9th place in the Conference. A point today, though, would put them right back in the playoffs.
Jason Arnott leads the Predators with 63 points. JP Dumont is not far behind with 68.
Arnott's 39 assists are a team best. Dumont (36) and Marek Zidlicky (35) are the other big assist men. Alexander Radulov, Martin Erat, and David Legwand each have 29 helpers.
Dumont is the leading goal-scorer with 26. Arnott and Radulov both have 24. Martin Erat is the only other Nashville 20-goal scorer. Dumont has three goals over his past four games, including the overtime game-winner in Calgary.
Dan Ellis should get the start today.
Detroit (44-18-6) snapped a four-game losing streak with a http://onthewingsblog.com/2008/03/03/wings-4-sabres-2/">4-2 win in Buffalo on March 2nd. The win was just their second in 11 games. They went on three nights later to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 at home. That game kicked off a five-game homestand that continues this afternoon.
With Dallas' 3-1 loss in Colorado yesterday, the Wings maintain their seven-point lead over the League. They have three games in hand on the Stars, who play the Avalanche again today at home.
Pavel Datsyuk is the leading scorer with 78 points. Henrik Zetterberg is not far behind with 76. Datsyuk has at least a point in each of his last five games.
Datsyuk's 53 points are a team best. Nick Lidstrom's 50 good for second.
Zetterberg leads the team in goals with 36. Datsyuk has netted 25. Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom, neither of whom are active today, both have 20.
The Wings will be without Holmstrom (groin/abdomen) today. Mark Hartigan will fill in as a result.
Chris Chelios (right leg, bone chip) is also out.
Brett Lebda (illness) did not practice yesterday and will not play. Either Jonathan Ericsson or Derek Meech will fill in for him. My guess is Meech, who sat out the St. Louis game in favor of Ericsson.
Nick Lidstrom (knee sprain) is expected to return, though the Freep lists him as questionable. The decision will be made following the pre-game skate.
Dominik Hasek should get the start.
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This is an important game for the Wings, who need to continue to improve their play as they see players return from injuries. The Predators are having a solid month so far and are fighting for a playoff spot. You can bet that they will come out hard and will do what they think it takes to win. The Wings are going to have to compete with both Nashville's physicality and skill, something they are more than capable of doing as long as their heads are in it.