Nashville Predators @ Detroit Red Wings Preview: Jekyll and Hyde

DETROIT MI - DECEMBER 08: Kevin Klein #8 of the Nashville Predators watches the game winning goal by J-P Dumont #71 (not shown) go past Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena on December 8 2010 in Detroit Michigan. The Predators defeated the Red Wings 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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I've officially given up on trying to guess which Nashville Predators team will show up for a given game. Yes, there have been more than a few problematic injuries, but this team's inconsistency and distasteful disregard for detail have my hair turning gray long before it's time.

Indeed, the past two games have been a microcosm of the season to date - Saturday, Nashville ran their arch-rivals out of town on a rail, scoring power play, shorthanded, and even strength goals in a shutout victory for Pekka Rinne. Monday, though, was an about-face. The league's worst team sauntered into the Tire Barn and pushed the Preds around like a bully in a schoolyard. It was, in a word, disgraceful.

I remain rather perplexed as to why such problems abound. Most nights, if the Predators stick to what they're good at and nothing else, they will win the game. It's not because they're more talented than their opponents (typically the opposite), but because their willingness to put their heads down and never say die wins out over sides that like to finesse their way through the game. 

The big problem with this system, though, is that when you decide not to show up (like Monday night), you're sunk from the opening faceoff. The Preds don't have the skill to make up significant deficits and they definitely don't have the skill to take a few shifts off.

I'm not sure what it will take for the team to realize the above - but it needs to be found and implemented, quickly. Detroit is one of, if not the only team in the NHL who can play both the Predators' style and beat you with their skill. If the Preds don't get their act together soon, you can forget about the Central Division title, home ice advantage, and perhaps the playoffs altogether.

Tonight's tilt marks the first On the Forecheck viewing party at the Village Pub in East Nashville, organized by OtF member ExcellenceThroughGuesswork. Check out the details or tweet him with questions.


Tonight's projected lineups:

Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators



Nov 03, 1982

2010 - Pekka Rinne 37 2160 18 14 76 2.11 1063 987 .929 4
Wilson - Legwand - Hornqvist
Kostitsyn - Goc - Erat
Ward - Smithson - Halischuk
Sullivan (A) - Spaling - Dumont
 Suter (A) - Weber (C)
Klein - Sulzer
Franson - O'Brien

Jimmy Howard

#35 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings



Mar 26, 1984

2010 - Jimmy Howard 40 2293 26 9 108 2.83 1154 1046 .906 2
Franzen - Zetterberg - Bertuzzi
Hudler - Datsyuk - Cleary
Holmstrom - Abdelkader - Eaves
Draper - Helm - Miller
Lidstrom - Kronwall
Ericsson - Rafalski
Kindl - Salei

As for the main team-level metrics... the battle here will be on special teams, where Detroit's lethal power play goes up against Nashville's stout penalty killing. If the Preds lose that battle, they're unlikely to make up that ground in other areas.

Nashville Predators Detroit Red Wings
 GF/Game 2.50 26th 3.28 3rd
 GA/Game 2.33 4th 2.91 19th
 5-on-5 SF/60 28.8 22nd 32.3 4th
 5-on-5 SA/60 30.2 19th 29.9 16th
 5-on-5 Shoot% 8.4 12th 9.0 6th
 5-on-5 Save % .928 3rd .912 20th
 5-on-4 GF/60 4.7 26th 7.2 5th
 # of PP's 189 19th 206 8th
 4-on-5 GA/60 4.6 4th 6.0 16th
 # of PK's 190 10th 193 13th
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