The reports coming out of today's morning skate before Game One between the Predators and Red Wings bring news that Detroit will get an important role player back in the lineup, while Nashville will have a decision to make just before the opening faceoff.
And as far as the coaches go, it sounds like they're already hard at work trying to influence perceptions around this series...
The big news appears to be that Detroit speedster Darren Helm is ready to go, as he returns to the lineup for the first time since suffering a knee injury on March 17. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock likes the way Helm's presence tips the balance of power when the depth lines hit the ice:
"Helmer just puts everyone in the right spot," Babcock said. "We had a great bottom six all year long and then we lost our people, and we had no bottom six, we had no support scoring.
"It's amazing when you put people in the right spot. So I look at their team and I see Spaling and Gaustad in their three and four holes, and those are good match-ups for us. They weren't (good matchups) without (Helm)."
#43 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 21, 1987
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Does Helm indeed give Detroit an edge over Nick Spaling and Paul Gaustad? I think it will all depend on the strength of that knee. But as Chris noted in his profile piece on Helm a couple days ago, Helm's speed could disrupt the Preds' ability to break out effectively if he gets on top of the defense quickly.
On the Nashville side, there aren't really any surprises. Josh Cooper reports that Hal Gill will be a game-time decision, while Jordin Tootoo and Colin Wilson look like healthy scratches.
What's interesting there is the likelihood of seeing Craig Smith get some action. Can the Honey Badger provide some offensive spark in a limited role?
These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For
Meanwhile, the head coaches on each side are working the press to skew perceptions how they best see fit. Here's Babcock to start:
Babcock on road games: "You just play nice and simple and put as much pressure on the opposition as you can and just watch them tighten up."— JoshuaCooper (@JoshuaCooper) April 11, 2012
You know what this reminds me of? The douchebag who joins your golf foursome and says things like "oh, I bet he's going to crush this ball" right before you tee off, pretty much ensuring a hitch in your swing and a muffed shot.
Of course, the flip side of Babcock's point is that if the Wings do plan on escalating the pressure, there may be opportunities to catch them with an extra forechecker deep and create odd-man rushes the other way.
Barry Trotz, meanwhile, plays the oldest angle of them all, eschewing the role of favorite in this series, even though predictions from around North America lean heavily in Nashville's favor (including 15 of 17 analysts at NHL.com):
"I don't know if (the Preds) deserve to be favorite," Trotz said. "When you look at records, both teams have 48 wins, so tell me who's the favorite. They have 11 Stanley Cups on the other side.
"They've got maybe the greatest defenseman ever to play the game in Nick Lidstrom. Pavel Datsyuk is one of the best two-way players you'll run into in any decade. So you can say we're the favorites or not. Getting two points more than them over 82 games ... That's pretty slim."
--- John Glennon, Predators Insider