Zetterberg's first season as captain has been a tough one. (PHOTO: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Gameday: Nashville Predators at Detroit Red Wings, 2/23/13

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

at DETROIT RED WINGS

February 23rd, 2013
Joe Louis Arena
Detroit, Michigan
6:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee, NHL Network
Game available in Atlanta market
Nashville leads season series 1-0

The Nashville Predators beat the Detroit Red Wings earlier this week in their first meeting of the season. Both teams have lost games since then and will be looking to bounce back with a win tonight.

DETROIT RED WINGS

(7-7-3, 4th in Central)

The Red Wings are on a serious skid at the moment. They have lost five games in a row dating back to February 13th. Four of those losses have come by a lone goal, including their second loss of the season to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk

Pavel Datsyuk does it all. (PHOTO: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Part of the breaking-in phase for young Nashville Predators defenders is being dismantled by Pavel Datsyuk (8G-10A). He’s averaging more than a point per game, which is up from last season’s pace. He had a five-game goal-scoring streak snapped against Columbus on Thursday, which included an end-to-end highlight play against all five Nashville players earlier this week.

Henrik Zetterberg (5G-17A) has been Detroit’s most productive player during his first season as its captain, but he hasn’t been able to pull the rest of the Red Wings along with him. He’s just +1 for the season after 17 games.

Others to watch

In three previous seasons with Detroit, Jimmy Howard (6-6-2, 3.08 GAA, .896 SV%) has never had to endure playing behind a defense as terrible as this year’s. Four of his last eight starts have seen him surrender at least four goals, and he gave up two on seven shots in Nashville on Tuesday.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(8-5-5, 2nd in Central)

Nashville is coming in with no rest, having lost 1-0 to Vancouver at home last night. They played a hard-forechecking game and outshot the Canucks 13-3 in the first period before trailing off the rest of the way.

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne

Pekka keeps getting better but his win-loss record doesn’t. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Pekka Rinne (7-4-4, 1.63, .936) stopped 23 of 24 shots against Vancouver last night but took the loss when his team couldn’t give him any goal support. He’s playing his heart out this year, even if his win/loss record doesn’t reflect that. The best news for Nashville is that he keeps doing it regardless of how the team plays in front of him.

Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber

Shea Weber is finally back in the scoring mix for the Preds. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Shea Weber (3G-4A) saw his point- and goal-scoring streaks end in the loss to Vancouver. But the captain is officially back in the mix now that he’s tied for third on the team in points. He’s the leader of this team and he needs to find a way to rally them after losing a game they should have won last night.

Others to watch

Mike Fisher (3G-4A) and Martin Erat (3G-7A) are both among the Predators’ top point producers despite being very streaky. They are also Weber’s partners in the leadership corps, which means the onus is on them to help the team find its winning form again.

Bottom line

The last game between these two teams was closer than it had any right to be, mostly thanks to superhuman offensive efforts by Datsyuk and Zetterberg and some very loose play by the Nashville defense. This is the worst the Detroit Red Wings have been in a long time and the Nashville Predators have the talent and ability to take advantage. The question is, can they actually put all the pieces together and do it?

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