Red Wings-Predators Preview
Taking advantage of a cushy portion of their schedule, the Nashville Predators have put together their first three-game winning streak of the season.
The competition is about to get much tougher.
The Predators go for a fourth straight victory Thursday night when they host the surging Red Wings, who are seeking an 11th victory in 13 games.
Since losing to Phoenix on Dec. 6, Nashville (15-11-4) has defeated Columbus, Anaheim and Calgary - three teams that hardly resemble Stanley Cup contenders.
Despite playing some of the worst teams in the league, none of the games were easy. All three victories were by one goal, and the Predators had to come from behind in two of them.
Nashville scored first against Calgary on Tuesday and had plenty of opportunities to put the Flames away - firing a season-high 45 shots on goal - but only Matt Halischuk and Colin Wilson could find the back of the net.
Wilson's game-winning goal at 3:31 of the third period came on the power play, marking Nashville's sixth straight game scoring with the man-advantage.
"You want your power play to score goals and timely goals,'' coach Barry Trotz said.
Prior to their winning streak, the Predators had dropped seven of nine, including a 4-1 loss in Detroit on Nov. 26. Valtteri Filppula scored twice and added an assist, and Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary also scored in the first meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals.
The Red Wings (19-9-1) arrive in Nashville after beating Pittsburgh 4-1 on Tuesday for their third straight victory and 10th in 12 games.
Detroit trailed the Penguins 1-0 until Pavel Datsyuk scored his ninth goal with 3:59 remaining in the second period. The Red Wings, opening a stretch of 11 of 14 games on the road, then took control in the third as Johan Franzen scored his team-leading 14th goal before Danny Cleary added a pair of late insurance scores.
"It was a good road game for us,'' said Cleary, who has scored in Detroit's last three games against the Predators. "I thought we played OK in the first, not great in the second, good in the third.''
Jimmy Howard had another solid night in goal, stopping 25 shots to earn his league-leading 18th victory. He has yielded two goals or fewer in nine of 11 outings since Nov. 19, going 10-1-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average.
Howard stopped 18 shots against the Predators three weeks ago, while counterpart Pekka Rinne made 33 saves.
Rinne has allowed four goals in each of his last two starts against the Red Wings after surrendering two goals on 110 shots in winning his previous three games in the series. He has a 2.00 GAA during his current three-game winning streak after going 0-5-1 with a 3.93 GAA in his previous seven contests.
Sergei Kostitsyn had three goals and an assist in helping Nashville go 2-0-1 against Detroit at Bridgestone Arena last season.