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Deja Vu All Over Again: Predators/Red Wings

It's time for the 2nd half of the Central Division showdown between Detroit and Nashville. Dominik Hasek and Chris Mason face of in goal tonight, replacing the goalies from the night before.

No Erat. No Forsberg. No Sullivan.
No Cleary. No Zetterberg. No Markov.

No crying, OK? Let's just play...

Early 1st: Lots of empty seats in the lower bowl at JLA tonight. At best it's 75% full (of course, those seats are 100% paid for, so don't cry for Little Ceasar).

16:58 1st: Darryl Bootland just can't wait to get his hands on Jordin Tootoo (get a room, you two!), and takes a penalty. Tootoo keeps his gloves on and gives the Preds an early power play opportunity.

16:00 1st: Perhaps the best scoring chance so far as the Wings gain possession in the Preds zone, and set up a shorthanded slapper for Nick Lidstrom from about 20 feet, which Mason stops.

14:20 1st: Another Detroit penalty called as Mathieu Schneider gets tagged for interference, on a mystifying call. Jarred Smithson checked Schneider off the puck and Schneider bumped him as Smithson passed it away. Nothing wrong with checking a player who's just played the puck. Even Terry Crisp, color man for the Predators telecast, thinks Schneider got jobbed.

12:45 1st: Nashville has trouble getting the PP set up, giving the puck away in their own zone before finally getting a decent cross-crease chance for Paul Kariya which Hasek stuffs.

10:32 1st: J.P. Dumont makes a nifty outside-in deke on Nick Lidstrom and gets in close for a shot on Hasek, which results in a mad scrum in front of the Detroit net digging for the loose puck. If the Preds are going to win tonight, they need 2nd-tier scorers like Dumont to keep generating chances like this.

9:23 1st: Detroit now gets its first PP chance of the game, following an interference call to Jason Arnott. Nashville is pressed into using some different personnel (i.e. Tootoo) on the PK due to all their injuries.

7:23 1st: Nashville kills of the penalty without incident, and Legwand nearly connects on a long bomb of a pass to Kariya, who would have been in all alone.

5:10 1st: After allowing Detroit's D to dictate the pace of the game, Nashville gets its best scoring chance of the period as Tootoo sends Darcy Hordichuk in on goal with a nifty pass. Much as in the 2nd and 3rd periods last night, in 5-on-5 action the Red Wings seem to have the puck most of the time, with Nashville getting only the occasional dangerous chance.

1:54 1st: Alexander Radulov gets the Predators on the board with a tremendous individual effort. He picks up the puck around the red line and charges into the Detroit zone, keeping a step ahead of Lilja and putting a glove side wrister past Hasek for a 1-0 lead. Perhaps the questions the Nashville coaching staff have about the rookie's ability to play in big games are getting answered...

1:07 1st: Pavel Datsyuk sets up Valtteri Filppula for the Wings best shot of the period, and Mason deflects it stick side. The period ends 1-0, with Detroit carrying much of the play, but highlight-type efforts by Dumont and Radulov have the Predators in the lead.

19:12 2nd: Vernon Fiddler gets a close-in attempt off a nice steal and feed from J.P. Dumont. Nicklas Kronwall for Detroit then plows Fiddler over the top of his goaltender, drawing a few complaints from the home crowd who want their aged goalie protected.

18:47 2nd: Kirk Maltby sparks a spirited scrum along the boards after Smithson and Kris Draper have words, but no blows are thrown and offsetting penalties to Maltby and Fiddler are handed out.

18:44 2nd: Datsyuk wins an offensive zone faceoff cleanly back to Lidstrom, who blasts a slapper past Mason to tie the game at 1-1. There might have been a bit of a screen on the shot, but it was a laser low to the glove side, and as Mason came over to follow the play, he didn't have a chance.

17:50 2nd: Paul Kariya takes the puck from the Nashville blue line and streaks through into the Red Wings zone, barely a step ahead of Schneider for Detroit, who takes his him down trying to prevent the breakaway. Kariya goes down right into the goalpost and is slow to get back on his feet, but heads off under his own power. For a moment, Predators fans see their season pretty much flash before their eyes. Schneider gets the tripping call and the Preds get their third power play of the game... and frankly Detroit's lucky it wasn't called for a penalty shot.

13:19 2nd: Kariya (back in the game after his crash) almost gets another breakaway chance but Hasek comes way out to play the puck away. Shortly afterward, J.P. Dumont and Tomas Holmstrom collide unintenionally near center-ice, and both head off to their benches huffing and puffing. Those unanticipated collissions are often the most dangerous.

11:10 2nd: A nice long pass by Kronwall sets up a couple shots for Detroit, and Dumont then heads back into the Red Wing end to set up a shot by Ramzi Abid. This is a rare example of up-and-down play within the game. Most of the action has been pretty choppy.

10:08 2nd: The Red Wings are really working the Hail Mary, as Lidstrom connects with Mikael Samuelsson on a formerly two-line pass.

9:48 2nd: Nashville works hard on the cycle and gets a goal from Jason Arnott to take a 2-1 lead. Radulov and Dumont do most of the dirty work, and as Dumont feeds Kimmo Timonen off to the side of the net, the puck bounces off of Arnott and into the net behind Hasek. There's some review to determine whether Arnott used his glove to direct the puck in, but the goal stands. Radulov doesn't get an assist on the play, but he definitely helped make it happen.

8:40 2nd: The Red Wings get to work on their own cycling play, where Kyle Calder really shines as he keeps the puck away from the Nashville D while looking for an open man.

4:31 2nd: Much more back-and forth play between the two teams, and the line of Kariya/Legwand/Tootoo generates some good shots for Nashville. Hasek's on his game, however, keeping the Detroit deficit at one.

3:37 2nd: The on-puck strength of Robert Lang and Kyle Calder pays off in the form of a Jiri Hudler goal to tie the game at 2-2. Lang and Calder draw all the attention from the Nashville defense, while Hudler finds an open spot to take a rebound and put it through Mason's 5-hole. This is the line that posted a +3 apiece in last night's game.

2:46 2nd: Lilja staples Tootoo's head into the glass with his elbow, putting the Predators on another power play.

End 2nd: Detroit kills of the penalty, setting up what should be an exciting third period...

17:40 3rd: After a brief tangle, Tootoo bangs Datsyuk, which sends the Detroit forward sprawling along the ice trying to draw a call. The refs could have called both (holding the stick on Datsyuk and rough on Tootoo) or neither, and choose to hold their whistles.

14:19 3rd: The Calder/Lang/Hudler line strikes again for Detroit, this time as Lang carries the puck in and Calder fills the high slot, Hudler sneaks in behind the Nashville D to receive the pass and put a top corner, short-side wrister past Mason to put the Red Wings up 3-2.

12:20 3rd: J.P. Dumont gets another good opportunity with a 10-foot wrister that Hasek turns aside. The Predators don't want to let Detroit win this one in regulation, letting them take the Central Division lead with a game in hand, so look for the Predators to pull out all the stops down the stretch.

10:00 3rd: The Wings are starting to control the play once again, setting up a couple good shots and stopping Nashville rushes before they get rolling. The Detroit fans finally wake up with "Let's Go Red Wings" chants, and Hudler clanks one of the post, narrowly missing his Hat Trick.

8:10 3rd: Word comes in that Valtteri Filppula has suffered a dreaded "lower body injury" and won't return for the rest of the night... my money's on an ingrown toenail.

6:15 3rd: Nashville gets a chance to tie as Robert Lang gets a hooking call as the "offensively challenged" Greg Zanon charged down the slot.

Late 3rd: The Predators work hard for some shots in the final minutes, but Hasek turns them aside and the rebounds are promptly sent down the ice by Detroit defensemen. Kirk Maltby fires home an empty netter with 36.9 seconds left (taking care to cross center-ice to avoid a possible icing), and seals a 4-2 victory for the Red Wings.

My 3 stars:
1. Jiri Hudler (2G)
2. Nick Lidstrom (1G)
3. Robert Lang (2A)

The Skinny: Nashville's defense just couldn't handle the Calder/Lang/Hudler line all night, and despite some strong individual efforts by Kariya, Radulov and Dumont, the Predators had trouble generating consistent offense. For now, the Wings take command in the Central Division, as they head on the road to take on the Canucks and Flames. The Predators come home to play Dallas Saturday night (already a sold-out game) before heading out themselves to take on a Northwest swing through Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.