The Nashville Predators, fresh off their first loss in regulation, are in Detroit today for their first game of the year against the despised Red Wings. The Preds have played 9 games, and are in 2nd place in the West with 13 points. Detroit has played one less game, and has two less points - they sit in 7th. Sure, we're only a tenth of the way into the season, but if the playoffs started today, the Predators would host the Red Wings. That'd be fun, wouldn't it?
Anyway, this is never a dull matchup, so follow after the jump for more.
Just as Detroit had so many crucial injuries last year, this year it appears to be the Predators' turn. Through nine games, Pekka Rinne, Martin Erat, Matthew Lombardi, Ryan Suter, and Marcel Goc have all missed time to an injury (with Goc, Lombardi, and Suter still out tonight). Every one of those guys is an important player, yet the Predators have worked their way to one of the best records in the league.
Unfortunately, they took a bit of a break from their trademark resiliency on Thursday against St. Louis. It's become cliche, but the Predators got away from Predators hockey - they failed to establish any sort of a forecheck, didn't draw many penalties, and allowed themselves to be outworked by the Blues. They can't beat Detroit based on skill alone, so if they get outworked tonight, you might as well turn off your television. Thankfully, I can't recall the last time Barry Trotz allowed this team to be out-hustled two games in a row.
Rinne has been nothing short of spectacular so far for Nashville - he is 3rd in the NHL in save percentage, and 5th in goals against average. This is why Dan Ellis was deemed superfluous - Pekka Rinne is a franchise goalie, folks.
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||5||288||2||1||2||9||1.88||167||158||.946||1|
It's pretty difficult to predict tonight's lines, mainly because two forwards missed practice due to a "maintenance day", and another one was recalled from Milwaukee. I'll assume that Martin Erat and Jordin Tootoo are good to go, but that leaves no spot for recall and AHL goal leader Linus Klasen. I don't think Nashville called Klasen up to let him sit in the press box, so lets go with Seth's line predictions and assume Tootoo eats the nachos tonight.
Detroit has a day to stew over this and get their heads on right, as Nashville comes to town on Saturday. I watched part of the third period in their loss to St. Louis; After seeing Jordin Tootoo get the gate for a five-minute charging major which may also be a blindside headshot to Carlo Colaiacovo, I wouldn't be surprised to see the little [guy] suspended. Anything that keeps him from trying to end Franzen's career is fine by me.
Well, looks like the more things change, the more they stay the same. Hopefully for Detroit, they've spent some time watching film of Linus Klasen. Otherwise, it could end up similar to what OtF reader ExcellenceThroughGuesswork said - "like a beagle loose in a nursing home".
And in this case, he wasn't kidding - Joe Louis Arena is one of the oldest arenas in the NHL, and residents Nicklas Lidstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Ruslan Salei, Mike Modano, Tomas Holmstrom, and Chris Osgood's average age is thirty-two. Sure, they've had some early season success and its never a good idea to count the Red Wings out, but relying heavily on players that age for 82 games plus the playoffs might not be that great of a plan.
Jimmy Howard will sit out tonight's game due to back spasms, so the age
lessd Chris Osgood gets the call in net for the Wings.
|2010 - Chris Osgood||3||179||1||2||9||3.02||78||69||.885||0|
As much as I enjoy poking fun of them, this is one of the deepest teams in hockey. Their defense has taken a bit of a hit, though, with Brian Rafalski out with a knee injury.
Yeah, I don't like the looks of this either. But you have to know that Shea Weber and Francis Bouillon will draw the top line and face Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, which leaves Kevin Klein and Shane O`Brien to take on one of the league's best 2nd lines. I've long contended that Klein is nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe, and I think he was one of Nashville's best players on Thursday against St. Louis. That said, Johan Franzen is a stiffer test than Brad Boyes or Andy McDonald. In the absence of Ryan Suter, Klein needs to have the game of his life tonight.
Getting back on the road, against a bitter rival, could be just what Nashville needs to fix what ails them. If the Predators can pepper Chris Osgood with shots - and I mean good shots, not these wimpy ones from the perimeter - then they'll find success. Nashville is 3-0-0 on the road in 2010-11. Let's make that 4-0 with a 3-1 win over Detroit.