Remember this? - Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE
While Nashville Predators fans look forward to the return of Jordin Tootoo in enemy colors, Detroit supporters wonder if their two-decade run of playoff appearances might be in jeopardy.
|Detroit Red Wings||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Save %||.928||10th||.943||1st|
|# of PP's/Gm||4.80||3rd||3.31||28th|
|# of PK's/Gm||4.33||23rd||3.63||7th|
Most of those numbers are fair-to-middling for Detroit, a stark reminder of the effect that the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom was bound to have. Once you get a decent ways into the season, however (as we are now), probably the single strongest indicator of team talent is Fenwick Close, and there it appears that the Red Wings are still winning the possession battle against most of their opponents during the action that really matters.
Detroit Red Wings
While Lidstrom may be gone, the dynamic duo of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are still as fearsome a pair of stars as exist in the NHL.
|2012 - Henrik Zetterberg||15||5||15||20||+1||10||2||1||1||55||9.1|
The Red Wings have scored 39 goals this season, and Zetterberg has played a direct role in more than half of them.
The focus in Motown, however, is simply to reverse a 3-game slide that has them sinking through the standings:
This game would be much more fun if the Red Wings weren't desperate for a win. Getting revenge for last season's first round playoff loss to the Predators would be ideal. Watching Jordin Tootoo skate like crazy again his old team is going to be exciting. But, instead, to be honest, I don't care about much of that tonight. I just want to see the Red Wings end their losing steak.
Rather than just a blip on the radar, that step back into the middle of the pack might be the norm for Detroit after an incredible 20-year run as the league's most accomplished team. Another post at WIIM takes a look at where they stand after 15 games:
The picture is becoming clearer with each 5-game segment that this team is exactly what many predicted: a middle-of-the-pack team that will dominate at times and struggle at others. That they've been unable to go on a prolonged winning streak suggests that we should just prepare ourselves for the fact that this team could either get beat up on a good team or blow a lead and lose to a bad one.
The team's leaders are setting the pace, but now it's up to the depth players to step up and contribute offensively. On the back-end, the defense needs to play a more consistent game, and now allow any of the back-breaking mistakes we've seen end up in the Wings' net. In goal, Jimmy Howard has been very good at times and just ok at others, but I chalk a lot of this up to the fact he's played 12 and 3/4 of the first 15 games, and he's going to need more time off.
Of course, just as the Predators have pulled alongside (or passed) Detroit, Chicago & St. Louis have jumped to the fore. Regardless, Nashville/Detroit games will always mean something special to Preds fans.
No sooner did Patric Hornqvist return to the lineup yesterday at Colorado than the Predators lost another key forward to injury, as Paul Gaustad left due to an upper-body issue. He's listed as "questionable" for tonight's game. That likely means more work for Nick Spaling at the center spot, and possibly some opportunity for Craig Smith to get work there as well. Smith has shown more spark in recent games, but still isn't cashing in as a result.
The guy who is delivering results, however, is Colin Wilson, who has taken over sole possession of the team scoring lead, and is playing the most consistently effective hockey of his career these days:
|2012 - Colin Wilson||16||5||7||12||+2||4||1||0||1||21||23.8|
All eyes will be on Pekka Rinne in goal, as he was supposed to get some rest yesterday but ended up playing in relief of Chris Mason. Will he be sharp right from the start against a team he's beaten many times before? In 19 career games against Detroit, Peks is 11-5-3 with a .932 save percentage, 2.29 GAA and 3 shutouts.