Red Wings, Predators continue battle for No. 4 seed
Friday, 03.30.2012 / 10:16 AM
Pete Jensen - NHL.com Staff Writer PREDATORS (44-25-8) at RED WINGS (46-26-5)
TV: FS-TN (HD), FS-D+ (HD)
Nashville 5-4-1; Detroit 3-5-2
Detroit has taken three of five head-to-head matchups so far this season against Nashville, with three of the contests being decided by one goal. The teams collided most recently on March 10 at Bridgestone Arena, as Sergei Kostitsyn assisted on both power-play goals scored by his brother, Andrei Kostitsyn, to lead the Preds to a 3-2 triumph over the Wings.
While Friday's clash at Joe Louis Arena concludes the regular season series between the Preds and Red Wings, the two clubs could see each other again in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Detroit and Nashville have already clinched playoff spots, and are currently separated by only one point in the race for the fourth seed in the Western Conference with five games remaining. Both teams look to rebound from road setbacks, as the Preds were handed a 3-0 defeat by the West-leading St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, while the Red Wings suffered a surprising loss to the League-worst Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday.
Nashville may have come up empty in its last outing against the division-rival Blues, but they were able to breathe a sigh of relief a day later without even lacing up their skates. The Anaheim Ducks defeated the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night, helping Nashville clinch a playoff berth -- its seventh trip to the postseason over the last eight seasons.
Despite the good news, the team is aware it must make strides offensively to generate more quality scoring opportunities once the playoffs roll around. Nashville mustered 24 shots on goal against St. Louis, but struggled all night to solve Brian Elliott -- who reeled off his third consecutive shutout.
"You don't get many odd-man rushes," forward Mike Fisher told NHL.com after Tuesday's loss. "They're very smart defensively and patient and clog everything up."
The unpredictability of the game of hockey was never more evident than Wednesday night, when the playoff-bound Red Wings -- two nights after clobbering Columbus by a 7-2 margin to open their home-and-home set -- dropped a 4-2 decision at Nationwide Arena to an emergency goaltender. Jackets netminder Allen York stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced to send the sliding Wings to their ninth loss in 13 games this month.
"That was a poor effort," coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com. "We weren't good throughout our lineup. Give [Columbus] credit. They got embarrassed the other night in our rink and showed they're professionals and came out and competed hard. Our effort was … I was surprised, to say the least."
Who's Hot: Henrik Zetterberg
has compiled 4 goals and 4 assists over his last four games for Detroit. … Nashville's Patric Hornqvist was held without a point against St. Louis, but has shined as of late with 7 goals and 3 assists over a 12-game stretch.
Jordin Tootoo (upper body) is doubtful for Friday's game against Detroit, while Martin Erat (upper body) and Roman Josi (upper body) are questionable. … Jimmy Howard
(groin) has not played since March 19, but could be available for Friday's clash with the Preds. Backup goalie Joey MacDonald
(back spasms) is listed as questionable. Darren Helm
(sprained knee ligament) is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
With a win Friday, Barry Trotz -- the Preds' only head coach in franchise history -- would reach the 500-win plateau.
"There's a big chance that whoever wins [Friday] is going to have home ice," Zetterberg told the Detroit Free Press. "We all know what's at stake."