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Game 78: Nashville @ Detroit – The Final Exam



Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

 This is a test…a very important test between who many feel will be a first round match-up in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Red Wings coming off a thorough shellacking of the Blue Jackets at the Joe on Monday (7-2) let the little cannons that could run them out of Columbus on Wednesday night by a 4-2 margin.

The Predators also got man-handled by a supremely locked down St. Louis team that had their goaltender record his 3rd straight shutout en rounte to a 3-0 win.

Both teams are hungry despite already clinching playoff spots. Both teams needs this win and the fight for home-ice in a very real way comes down to tonight’s match-up. The Predators record against Detroit at Joe Louis Arena is 0-2-0, so home ice for the Predators is a must. Let’s see who’s study notes and preparation will win out when the puck drops at 6:30 P.M. T.V. coverage on FS Tennessee with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp, radio feed on 102.5 the Game with Tom Callahan and Willy Daunic.

This Year’s Series: 2-3-0 (Home 2-1-0) (Away 0-2-0)

Looking at the Red Wings: The Red Wings are finally getting back some of their battle-injured players. Datsyuk being back in the lineup is paying off huge for Detroit as he has posted 5 points in 6 games. Johan Franzen has also been reinserted but did not tally in his first game back. Franzen can be very dangerous with his wrist shot and he currently leads the Red Wings in goals with 26.

The Red Wings are also looking to have Jimmy Howard back in net since March 19th. Howard give the Red Wings a huge advantage as he is 6th in wins, 7th in GAA and 4th in shutouts. Howard has also bested Nashville twice already this season.

Looking at the Predators: The game against Chicago was a complete effort that saw hard work and a tenacious forecheck pay off huge in a 6-1 beatdown that sent the Hawks fans home scratching their heads. On Tuesday night, however, the tide had turned to favor St. Louis. The Predators have struggled with an overactive forecheck all season and Tuesday night proved that St. Louis has the 1-2-2 trap game down to a science.

The Predators had a rough time gaining the offensive zone let alone maintaining any kind of pressure or quality scoring chance. Detroit can clamp down in a similar fashion, but Detroit does play it a little loose. The Predators have to find a way to break through the blue-line wall of an opponent without the constant dump-and-chase that was the backbreaker on Tuesday.

For the Red Wings to win: Traffic in front. Typically if a team can get Rinne to start sprawling around or block his sight lines, it spells certain doom for the elite goaltender. The Red Wings have a bevy of forwards who will shoot from anywhere so the rubber will be flying towards the net all night long. The key will be to park Holmstrom or Filppula in and around the net for the rebound chances or tip-ins.

Howard may have a little rust on him just coming back from injury, so the defensive core led by future Hall-of-Famer Nik Lidstrom will have to do a good job of cutting off angles and clearing the boards and crease. The speedy second and third lines for Detroit can be very lethal if left for a 2-on-1 breakaway opportunity. Hudler and Helm have been known to break games open in a similar fashion.

For the Predators to win: Take the crowd out quick. Detroit plays such a smooth game plan directed by Coach Babcock to an almost robotic precision. The Predators need to not play on their heels and press the play out of the neutral zone. The Neutral zone is an area Detroit loves to sit back and create in, and the Predators would do well to either regroup in their defensive zone or aggressively push through the neutral zone to create offensive chances.

Rinne will have to be super-human tonight and the defense, with the hopeful addition of Roman Josi, needs to help Rinne in every way they can. All three St. Louis goals were the result of a defensive breakdown. This can’t happen in any game and especially against the Red Wings. Also look for the Predators leading scorer, Martin Erat, and spark-plug Jordin Tootoo to be back in the lineup tonight. Here’s hoping the Marty Party gets started early.


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