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RED WINGS at PREDATORS
(Nashville leads best-of-seven series 3-1)
TV:CNBC (HD), CBC,RDSI,FS-Detroit (HD),SportsSouth (HD)
Big Story: If Detroit wants to extend this series and avid being ousted in the first round for the first time since 2006, the Red Wings must find a way to get some pucks past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne and the impressive, shot-blocking fortress of defenders in front of him. Rinne has stopped 81 of 84 shots combined in winning the previous two games, both of which were played in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. The Predators can clinch the series with a victory and advance to the conference semifinals for the second straight year.
Red Wings: Detroit put a lot of pucks on net in the past two contests but got just three goals to show for all that effort after two straight gut-wrenching losses on home ice - where the Red Wings were dominant almost all season long. The situation is even more urgent as the series shifts back to Nashville with the Preds on the verge of clinching it in just five games. Much like they did in last year's West semifinal after falling behind 3-0 against the San Jose Sharks, the Wings must narrow their focus even tighter and play for the pride of the Winged Wheel logo on their chests in order to get the series back to Detroit for a sixth game. As for strategies to score more goals, it doesn't sound like the Wings are planning to do much differently in their approach.
"We've got a lot of believe in here," forward Henrik Zetterberg said after Thursday's practice session at Joe Louis Arena. "We're a good team. We just have to keep playing like we did last game and eventually we're going to score. You can't let it get to you."
Predators: Nashville has come a long way in two years since dropping a heartbreaking Game 5 to the Chicago Blackhawks in a memorable first-round series for both teams. Had the Preds beaten the Hawks in that overtime thriller in the United Center, they would have carried a 3-2 series lead back home to Bridgestone Arena for a chance to upset the heavily-favored Blackhawks. The experience taught the core group of Predators a harsh lesson about capitalizing on opportunities in the postseason and it showed in the waning moments of Game 4 in this series - with the Wings pushing for a tie down 2-1 and Nashville clinging to the lead. Instead of coughing up the lead and losing, the Preds got a goal of their own to win 3-1 and take their 3-1 series lead back home. Now, they have a chance to win a second first-round series in a row on home ice.
"You're definitely not comfortable when you've got a talented team like Detroit trying to win," defenseman Kevin Klein told the Tennessean. "If you lose Game 5 and all of a sudden you end up back in Detroit with Game 6, then anything can happen."
Who's Hot: Nashville's Gabriel Bourque leads all rookies in these playoffs with three goals, while Klein has scored in two straight games for the Predators -- the first time he's done so in his career. Rinne has stopped 116 of 121 combined shots in his three victories.
Injury Report: Patrick Eaves (concussion/injured reserve), Joey MacDonald (back) and Darren Helm (wrist surgery) are all out for the Red Wings. … Defenseman Hal Gill (lower body/foot) is still day-to-day for the Predators.
Stat Pack: Rinne went 14-0-2 in the regular season when stopping 35 or more shots. His regular-season numbers were even better when facing 40 or more, going 5-0-2 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .958 save percentage, including a 4-3 victory against Detroit Dec. 15 in Nashville. He is also 3-0 in this series when facing 35 or more shots after stopping 40 in Nashville's 3-1 win in Game 4. … Detroit is 38-37 all-time in Game 5s of playoff series.
Puck Drop: The Red Wings, who've qualified for 21 straight playoffs, haven't lost a series this early in the postseason since the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers upset them in 2006 on their way to a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final.
A loss on Friday could be the final game in the career of Wings' captain Nicklas Lidstrom. The 41-year-old says he'll follow his usual post-playoff procedure and take some time before making his decision.
Coach Mike Babcock expects to have No. 5 back in the lineup next fall.
"I'd be shocked if he retires," Babcock said Thursday. "But I've been shocked before."
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