Game Preview #10: Nashville Predators Visit Detroit Red Wings

Season Records

Predators 5-1-4
Red Wings 5-2-1

DETROIT - JANUARY 29: Steve Sullivan #26 of the Nashville Predators tries to get around Brian Rafalski #28 and Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings on January 29, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 4-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Can Steve Sullivan get that offense going again? (Photo: Yardbarker.com)

The Nashville Predators started the season by playing 6 of their first 9 games at home. Now, Nashville takes its game on the road playing 10 of the next 12 games away from Bridgestone Arena. Saturday night, Nashville will try to go 4-0-0 on the road to start the season for the first time in franchise history when the Predators visit Detroit for the first time this year.

Both the Red Wings and Predators are coming off Thursday night losses. Detroit lost to Phoenix by a 4-2 score. The Predators lost their first game in regulation, being shutout by the Blues 3-0.

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard will not play Saturday night, but Justin Abdelkader will make his season debut for Detroit. The Detroit Free Press reports that Abdelkader will likely replace Jiri Hudler or Mike Modano, as the three of them played on the third line with Dan Cleary during practice. Abdelkader suffered a rib injury during the preseason in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As for Howard, coach Mike Babcock didn’t reveal what injury was suffered by one of last year’s Calder Trophy finalists, saying instead that when the goalie went down in the butterfly his back locked up and he needed to rest it for a couple of days. Chris Osgood is expected to get the nod for Detroit.

Detroit is battling some other key injuries. Brian Rafalski had knee surgery and will not be in a lineup for more than a month. Jonathon Eriksson will also miss Saturday’s game. Eriksson is out with back spasms. Kris Draper has yet to see action this season. Draper is sidelined with a groin injury.

The usual suspects are still out of the lineup with injuries for Nashville, but a new face will make his debut as a Nashville Predators. Ryan Suter, Marcel Goc, and Matthew Lombardi will not play. With Nashville being shutout twice in its first nine games, the Predators have called up an offensive threat to hopefully help put the puck in the net. On Friday, Linus Klasen was called up from Milwaukee to join the Predators for their Saturday night game in Detroit.

Klasen leads Milwaukee, and the entire American Hockey League in goals, scoring 7 goals in 7 games. Klasen was this week’s AHL Player of the Week. Klasen signed with Nashville as a free agent this passed spring. He played the last three seasons in the Swedish Elite league.

A statistic that might be highlighted is Nashville’s historical lack of success at Joe Louis Arena with a 9-19-7 record in Detroit. However, of the 9 wins, 8 of them have come in the last 6 years. The Predators were 1-10-3 in Detroit between the years of 1998-99 to 2002-03. More important, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is 5-1-2 with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage against the Red Wings.

So long as the Predators can shut down the big guns, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterburg and team leader in goals Johan Franzen, they have a shot at winning the game. Of course, Nashville needs to put some pucks in the net. Nashville’s already troubled power play will be going up against one of the league’s best penalty kills at 89.7% kill off rate. The big question will be whether a small player standing at 5’8, having never played an NHL game and only with a month of North American hockey under his belt, can come into the Predators lineup and have an immediate impact.

Saturday night’s game time is 6 pm CT and the game is televised on Sports South. The Predators don’t play against until Wednesday night when they make their first trip to the desert to take on the Phoenix Coyotes.

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Tags: Detroit Red Wings Jimmy Howard Justin Abdelkader Nashville Predators NHL Pekka Rinne Steve Sullivan

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