Predators-Red Wings Preview
Now that the Detroit Red Wings control their own destiny, they hope to make it count.
After their latest victory moved them back into playoff position, the Red Wings look for a third straight win Thursday night when they face the visiting Nashville Predators, whom they've shut out in the last two meetings.
Detroit (22-16-8) has earned at least one point in six of seven games and with a second straight victory Wednesday, 3-1 over Los Angeles, moved one point ahead of Columbus into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Red Wings are one point behind seventh-place Minnesota.
"We're trying to crawl our way back into the playoffs,'' Detroit's Jimmy Howard said after he made 23 saves Wednesday.
With two games remaining, the Red Wings have only themselves to blame if they don't reach the playoffs for a 22nd straight season - and last before heading to the Eastern Conference.
"We still have it in our own hands," said captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has five assists in two games. "We've been playing pretty good and if we play like that, we'll be fine.
"There's been ups and downs, but mostly we've been able to keep working hard."
Johan Franzen wasn't able to finish Wednesday's game because of an undisclosed injury, but coach Mike Babcock hoped he would be healthy enough to play Thursday.
After its home finale, Detroit travels to Dallas on Saturday for what it hopes will not be the final game of the year. The Blue Jackets, who visit the Stars on Thursday, host Nashville (16-21-9) on Saturday.
"They've all felt like a playoff game here for a while,'' Howard said. "So, it's just two more here, and hopefully get the job done.''
Howard has been a big reason behind Detroit's last two victories, stopping 57 of 58 shots. He's made 55 saves while the Red Wings have outscored the Predators 7-0 in the last two meetings.
Detroit last recorded three straight shutouts of the same opponent against Colorado from Jan. 8-Feb. 8, 2008. Nashville, meanwhile, has never been blanked by the same foe in three consecutive contests.
Pavel Datsyuk, who had a goal and an assist for the Red Wings on Wednesday, has one score with five assists in three games versus Nashville this season.
Looking to avoid their first nine-game road slide since one of the same duration spanned the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, the Predators have dropped 14 of 15 (1-10-4) away from home.
However, Nashville snapped a franchise-worst eight-game slide (0-7-1) with a 4-3 win over Calgary on Tuesday. Austin Watson scored his first NHL goal in his sixth career game and Shea Weber added two assists for the Predators, who will miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
"We won the game. We haven't won for a while, so we weren't quite sure what to do,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz joked. "The guys have been working hard and they are not getting rewarded. (Tuesday night) it was good to get rewarded.''
Filip Forsberg, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft acquired from Washington in the trade for Martin Erat earlier this month, recorded his first NHL point with an assist Tuesday.
Weber scored the winner and added an assist in Nashville's 4-3 overtime home win over Detroit on Feb. 19.