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Morning Skate: to catch the Predators

I felt like this was the most appropriate time to use that as the Wings could pass Nashville with a win. Detroit and Nashville square off today in a huge game for the Western Conference standings. 


  • IMPORTANT! Remember today's game is an afternoon one and starts at 2:00 p.m. ET. Let's hope the crowd at The Joe is lively at that point in the day because it'll be the biggest game of the remaining 5 for Detroit.
  • Jimmy Howard will start in net again for Detroit. Howard is starting his 25th consecutive game for Detroit and looks to improve upon his recent play. Howard let in four goals against Edmonton but in 5 of the last 6 he's allowed 2 or fewer. I like that stat. 
  • That start streak will come to an end against Philadelphia on Sunday. Babcock has already said that Osgood will start against the Flyers on NBC's game of the week. Osgood hasn't started since a 5-2 loss to Minnesota on January 27th. That was so long ago that Ilya Kovalchuk was still a Thrashers, Phaneuf was still in the West, and health care reform wasn't official yet.
  • Pekka Rinne will likely start for the Predators. Rinne has a 2.53 GAA and a .911 SV% but 30 wins to go along with that.
  • These two teams faced off a week ago in a 1-0 Detroit shootout win. The winning goal was scored by Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard was solid all game long, including the shootout. But of course, everyone remembers this too...
  • What this game means: A.) Detroit win puts them one point ahead of Nashville and Nashville with only two more games following today's (@PHX, STL) B.) Nashville win gives them the three point lead over Detroit. C.) NEITHER team wants a three point game out of this. It's the worst case scenario for both teams. D.) The game game could very well be THE deciding one for the 5th place seeding.
  • A Detroit win would be their 8th straight. The Wings are 9-0-1 in their last 10 (the best record in the league) and have earned points in their last 11 games. Nashville is 7-2-1 in their last 10 (the third best record in the last 10 for the league) so they are nothing to take lightly at all. 
  • Important out of town scores from last night: Flames 2, Avs 1; Canucks 5, Ducks 4; Blackhawks 2, Devils 1. The Flames win is absolutely horrible for Colorado; the two points ties the two teams for the 8th spot in the West.  The Canucks win makes their already assumed playoff spot official while the Blackhawks win makes it virtually impossible for the Red Wings to catch them and win the division. 
  • Other big games on tap for the day (11 games in all): Devils vs Hurricanes (CAR loss practically eliminates them), Oilers vs. Coyotes (EDM win would practically assure SJ the division crown), Ducks vs. Kings (Ducks win would keep the Kings behind the Wings no matter what outcome in Motown. Or, a Kings win and a Detroit loss would let the Kings leap-frog).
  • The East is just as much of a mess for the bottom spot jockeying at this point. The spots 7-11 are all within 2 points. In other words, Boston and Philadelphia both have 82 points at the moment. Both also are pretty bad in their L10 (Philly is 2-6-2). The two teams below them (Atlanta and New York Rangers) are at 80 points and have good L10 records. Who knows what will happen.
  • Nashville's top goal scorer is Patric Hornqvist. Hornie (as I like to call him as of today) has 30 goals and 31 assists to lead the team in points as well.
  • Detroit's top goal scorer is Pavel Datsyuk with 25. Henrik Zetterberg leads all Wings with points at 67. Kind of remarkable considering how much time he missed with a messed up shoulder.
  • Kevin Klein, who many remember Pavel Datsyuk picking his pocket and scoring a goal in the defensive end, is a -12 this year. Probably not what they were expecting out of him but he's also fairly young still at 25.
  • Speaking of +/-, remember the days when Jonathan Ericsson was a -18? He's now improved that stat to a -14 as he's played some solid defense of late in his starts over Brett Lebda.