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Nashville may finally be ready to overtake the Detroit Red Wings for the Central Division title. The Predators can certainly help their chances by continuing to improve their play at Joe Louis Arena.
The Predators, winners of six straight, look to even their record in Detroit this season when they visit the Red Wings on Wednesday.
First-place Nashville (32-11-3) has finished second in the division to Detroit (29-12-5) in each of the past two seasons, but has a four-point lead in the Central with the All-Star break approaching.
The Predators have won six straight in a single season for the first time since winning eight in a row to begin 2005-06. It has helped Nashville hold off the Red Wings, who have won four in a row.
After losing their first game at Joe Louis Arena this season, 3-0 on Nov. 10, the Predators' final three games there may help determine the outcome of the division race.
Nashville is 4-3-1 in its last eight visits to Detroit, after going 1-10-3 there in its first seven seasons in the league.
Detroit native David Legwand doesn't have a point in his last five road games against the Red Wings, but he has helped spark the Predators' winning streak.
The 26-year-old center scored a goal and assisted on two others as Nashville beat Calgary 5-3 Monday night. He has 14 goals and 22 assists this season, including 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in his last 13 games.
Legwand, the No. 2 overall choice in the 1998 draft, has shed the pressure that comes with such status and is putting together his best year yet.
"He is dependable when he uses his speed and when he is competing hard," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "He is a solid player in this league. He has been consistent. He has scored some big goals. I have a lot of trust in him."
Legwand is making the most of his talented linemates.
"I'm playing with two great players regularly in Paul Kariya and Martin Erat," Legwand said. "I want to see production out of myself all of the time. Being healthy is also a key."
Erat scored his eighth goal of the season Monday, and is third on the team with 38 points.
Kariya had an assist to give him 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his last eight games. He leads the team with 34 assists and 49 points on the season.
Kariya has four goals and an assist in his last three games against Detroit.
Nashville, which has outscored opponents 27-13 during its winning streak, will now likely face Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek, who shut out the Predators in the November meeting at Joe Louis Arena.
Hasek made 23 saves to earn his sixth shutout this season and the 74th of his career in Monday night's 2-0 victory over Montreal.
Hasek, who leads the NHL with a 1.98 goals-against average, is one shutout behind New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for tops in the league. That wasn't enough to earn a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team, however.
Being left off the team stung the 41-year-old veteran of 15 NHL seasons, who has played in six All-Star games.
"I believe I deserved to be there," Hasek said. "For me, it's over now. I want to stay focused for the rest of the season. I didn't come back to Detroit to play in the All-Star game."
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