DETROIT RED WINGS
at NASHVILLE PREDATORS
February 19th, 2013
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Two old enemies, the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings, meet for the first of four times this season tonight in Nashville.
(7-4-5, 3rd in Central)
Nashville will play tonight without the services of faceoff destroyer Paul Gaustad, who left yesterday’s game in Colorado with an upper-body injury. Gaustad currently ranks second in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage (62.8).
Pekka Rinne (6-3-4, 1.58 GAA, .938 SV%, 3 SO) is the linchpin of Nashville’s game plan and has been in spectacular form this season. He was supposed to have the day off yesterday but ended up coming on halfway through the game in relief of Chris Mason, who gave up six goals to the Avalanche. Rinne loves to see as much action as possible so it’s conceivable that yesterday won’t hurt him, but it’s certainly less than ideal to have him in net again today.
Shea Weber (2G-3A) broke his pointless streak on February 7th. He’s now on a three-game point streak after picking up a goal and an assist in Colorado yesterday. If he’s actually beginning to rise from his slumber the way I predicted, he will make things very tough on the Red Wings.
Others to watch
Colin Wilson (5G-7A) is riding a four-game point streak at the moment, a career best for the 23-year-old. In that span he has two goals and three assists.
Mike Fisher (3G-3A) has been ramping up his game lately, adding a little bit of offense (three points in as many contests) to his league-leading blocked shots total. With Paul Gaustad out of the lineup he is the Nashville Predators’ number one faceoff threat.
DETROIT RED WINGS
(7-6-2, 4th in Central)
Detroit hasn’t seen Nashville since the Preds knocked them out of last year’s playoffs in five games. One of the all-time highs in Nashville Predators hockey was just another blip to this Original Six team, but losing its captain has proven to be much more momentous. Suddenly the Red Wings are just another team that has to compete like everybody else.
Pavel Datsyuk (7G-9A) is not just the most talented player on the Red Wings roster, but one of the most talented in the world. He has goals in each of his last four games. He’s also ranked third in the league in faceoff winning percentage, right behind Nashville’s missing Mr. Gaustad.
Henrik Zetterberg (5G-15A) is one of the league’s top scorers again this season, his first as the Detroit captain. After last season’s playoff incident between the two I’ll be watching to see if he and Weber have anything to say to each other tonight.
Others to watch
Jordin Tootoo (0G-2A, 32 PIM) returns to Bridgestone Arena tonight for the first time in an enemy sweater. How will he react to the inevitable emotions his homecoming will evoke in him? Odds are 3-to-2 it involves smashing something.
Jimmy Howard (6-5-2, 2.97, .900) has found the going a lot rougher in Detroit’s net than he used to when Nicklas Lidstrom and two or three other healthy, NHL-level defensemen were playing in front of him. He still has the ability to steal a game, though.
The Nashville Predators played on the road yesterday afternoon so they’ll still be worn down when game time approaches, whereas the Red Wings will be fresh from a day of rest. The Preds also looked terrible yesterday and were simultaneously robbed by the officials, so they’ll have a reason to give their full effort. Hopefully that will be enough to pull out a win against their biggest rivals, who are currently sitting just three points behind the Preds in the Central Division standings.