It's still weird getting used to the fact that Detroit isn't in the same division anymore. Although I will say that it's nice not having to fight away Red Wing fans at our home games anymore (even though the Blackhawks have taken over that spot). Whenever the Preds play the Red Wings, there is always something to prove.
Things are quite different for both of these teams since Detroit moved to the Eastern conference. The Red Wings are no longer a consistent division winning team anymore (albeit they are still contending for a playoff spot), and the Preds are no longer just fighting to get into a playoff spot. Both teams have gone through changes, and both are continuing to play competitively.
The Detroit Red Wings
The Wings continue to get it done every year. They are right in the thick of things in the Eastern conference, third in the Atlantic division, and fourth in the conference.Mike Babcock is still finding ways to get the best out of all his players, young and old. They are also getting production from their entire roster. As their stats currently show, the Wings have eight players with at least twenty points, and three with thirty.
Every year I say to myself, this is the year that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will finally begin to slow down in their production output. And every year, I/m dead wrong. Out of those players that have thirty or more points, Zetterberg and Datsyuk are two of them. Another contributing factor to their continued success has to be the play of the Wings' young players. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are having good years. Any time that the Red Wings can get production from the secondary guys, it usually means good things for everyone on the roster.
Unfortunately for Detroit, they are going to miss their All-Star goalie, Jimmy Howard, who is sidelined with an injury. Petr Mrazek and Jonas Gustavsson have played well in their starts, but I am concerned that it is too small of a sample size to really get a good idea of what they will be able to do consistently. They will get a chance to jump on Nashville early if the Preds come out sluggish tonight. And if you give the Red Wings the lead, they do a good job a preserving said lead. They have the second best winning percentage when leading after the first period.
A night removed from an emotional game for players and fans, the Predators look to stick it to their old rivals tonight. It will definitely be a tough task over the next three to five weeks, without Rinne, for Nashville to continue their torrid pace. However, I don't expect this Predators team, this year, to roll over and lose 75% of the games in that stretch. There is a new attitude and swagger about this Nashville teams that gives me the sense that nothing is going to stop them from their ultimate goal.
Peter Laviolette will have his squad ready to play tonight. And for him, I have to think it doesn't matter who is in between the pipes for the Preds. Lavi has his game plan, and he is going to stick with it. Also, Nashville is scoring three goals a game this season. Colin Wilson and Craig Smith have been instrumental parts in that stat as of late. The return of James Neal the other night didn't hurt either.
You'd think Marek Mazanec would get his first start this season, after Carter Hutton sealed the deal on his first win in a 31 save performance last night. But Lavy likes to play the hot hand, so we'll have to wait an see.
The Predators always seem to get up and excited for games against Detroit. Even though this one is on the road. Will they be tired after, what I assume was an emotional game? Probably. But they can't afford to take any nights off, especially with Pekka Rinne out for some time.
Reasons To Watch
- For those who watch that other sport you call football, it's not on tonight, so you have that going for ya..
- As I mentioned, it is the first time this year Nashville is playing Detroit. That should be enough reason, am I right?
Drink Of Choice For Game Time
I feel like I need to throw some bourbon into everyone's lives. I'm going to recommend an old fashioned. And for those of you who don't know how to make one, you can find the recipe here. I would suggest using Bulleit.
Sights And Sounds
The usual suspects tonight. FS-TN, and 102.5 The Game. Puck drop is a little early tonight at 6:00 pm CST. So make sure not to be late for this one.