Morning Skate: It Begins Tonight

It's your time, Mule. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

It's finally here.

The day we've all been waiting for since the season started in October against the Senators. The day we've been waiting for since training camp opened back in September. The day we've been waiting for since game seven against the Sharks last postseason.

It's finally here.

The real season begins tonight.

Whether we live in Kansas, Chicago, Boston or the great state of Michigan, we all hail from Hockeytown, and, us Red Wings fans, we understand that the regular season has it's place. It's necessary to give entertainment (I use that term loosely) to those who live in Toronto, Columbus, Minnesota and Long Island. At the end of the day though, it's an 82-game warm up for tonight. The Wings have had a Jekyll and Hyde type season and they find themselves as the 5th seed and starting on the road for only the third time in my entire 24 year existence.

A strange thing happened along the way too. Somehow, someway, somewhere it was decided that the Red Wings are an underdog to the Nashville Predators. The most decorated NHL franchise in the last 20 years is predicted to lose. The experts from just about any hockey website out there are picking the Preds to win this series. The more talented team, Detroit, is expected to be one and done because it's Nashville's "time" and they're "due."

Well screw that.

The greatest organ-i-zation in hockey has taken on challengers from the division like this before and come out victorious. The Wings have defeated their little brother (Chicago), eliminated their troubled nephew who begs you to buy them booze (St. Louis) and now it's time to put the country music lovin' third cousin from the south in their place too. It's a different challenger and it will be the same result. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So Nashville...I hope you're ready. I hope you're ready for a ruthless street fight. I'm talking a no-holds barred, anything goes, seven game battle to the death. It's going to take everything you've got and even more to win this series. For the last 20+ years teams have been gunning for the Red Wings and for the last 20+ years Detroit has remained the king of kings.

Bring it on.

The Quest for 12 begins tonight. Get your popcorn ready, folks.

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On the Forecheck is your SBNation Predators' blog.

Puck drop is just after 8p ET on Fox Sports Detroit for the locals and CNBC for the rest of us.

The Expected Lineup

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Johan Franzen -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Todd Bertuzzi

Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Justin Abdelkader -- Drew Miller

Gustav Nyquist -- Cory Emmerton -- Tomas Holmstrom

*

Nicklas Lidstrom -- Jonathan Ericsson

Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Kyle Quincey -- Ian White

*

Jimmy Howard (starting)

Ty Conklin

Game Time Decision: Darren Helm (knee)

Scratches: Jan Mursak, Chris Conner, Riley Sheahan and Jakub Kindl

Injuries: Patrick Eaves (concussion) and Joey MacDonald

RED WINGS HEAD-TO-HEAD PREDATORS
3-3-0 Record 3-3-0
2.67 Goals Per Game 2.33
21.4% Power Play % 17.6%
82.4% Penalty Kill % 78.6%
Valtteri Filppula (4 goals) Goal Leader Shea Weber (3 goals)
Henrik Zetterberg (6 points) Points Leader Legwand/Tootoo (5 points)

  • The Red Wings are 8-4 all-time against the Nashville Predators franchise in the postseason
  • Detroit might have the better power play numbers head-to-head this season, but the Preds had the top PP unit (21.6%) in the entire NHL. We've said it before and we'll say it again, the Wings need to win this series 5-on-5 and stay out of the box. You can't get beat when you're shorthanded if you're never a man down.
  • From the Red Wings official twitter, Nick Lidstrom has played in 258 playoff games in his career. That's the equivalent of an extra 3.14 seasons.
  • Nashville has played 40 playoffs games in their franchise history. Darren Helm has played in 64 playoff games.
  • Pekka Rinne is 8-10 with a 2.60 GAA, .908 SV% and no shutouts in his postseason career. Across the sheet Jimmy Howard is 12-11 with a 2.63 GAA, .919 SV% and one shutout. For one team having a clear cut advantage in net, the numbers are pretty close.

Prediction: They say it's not a series until someone wins on the road. Well, it becomes a series right away tonight. Detroit wins 3-1 and Pavel Datsyuk is your player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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