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Morning Skate: Division Week

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What up future teammate (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
What up future teammate (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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Christmas is over and that means hockey is back.

After an ugly end to a western Canada road trip, the Red Wings are on the road again after a brief stop home for some time with the family. Let's hope they're well rested and ready to go. This is easily the most important week of the Red Wings' season.

Four games in six days (@NSH, vs STL, @CHI, vs STL)

Two sets of back-to-backs.

Every game against a division opponent that doesn't completely suck balls (Hi Columbus!)

I'm not saying this week will make-or-break the entire season, but it will go a long way in helping (or hurting) the Wings positioning in the Central Division and the Western Conference. Come next Sunday, we'll know whether the Wings distanced themselves from the likes of Nashville and St. Louis and gained on (or surpassed) the Blackhawks.

If there was ever a time for this team to make a statement, it's this week. It starts tonight against the Predators.

Get the job done.

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On the Forecheck is your SBNation Predators' blog.

Puck drop is just after 8p ET.

The Expected Lineup

Johan Franzen -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Todd Bertuzzi

Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Darren Helm -- Drew Miller

Cory Emmerton -- Justin Abdelkader -- Tomas Holmstrom

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Nicklas Lidstrom -- Ian White

Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Jakub Kindl -- Jonathan Ericsson

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Jimmy Howard (starting)

Ty Conklin

Scratches: Mike Commodore

Injuries: Jan Mursak (ankle), Patrick Eaves (jaw) and Chris Conner (hand)

RED WINGS HOW THEY MATCH UP PREDATORS
21-12-1 (43 pts; 6th in West) Record 18-13-4 (40 pts; 8th in West)
3.24 (5th) Goals Per Game 2.69 (14th)
2.29 (5th) Goals Against Per Game 2.80 (16th)
20.3% (5th) Power Play % 22.5% (2nd)
80.8% (20th) Penalty Kill % 80.3% (24th)
Johan Franzen (14 goals) Goal Leader David Legwand (10 goals)
Pavel Datsyuk (35 points) Points Leader Shea Weber (29 points)

  • The Red Wings are 44-22-4-7 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Predators
  • Detroit has lost two-in-a-row and is 1-4-0 in their last five road games and 8-10-0 overall on the road.
  • Franzen only has one goal in his last six games. He's certainly slowed down in the last two weeks.
  • Filppula is another player who has slowed down. He only has one goal and one assist in his last six. He's also a minus-3 in that span.
  • Drew Miller has four goals in his last four games. If Babcock mixes up the lines, I'd like to see him get some time on the first or second line.

Prediction: Wings bounce back after spending some time with the family. Detroit wins a close one 2-1 and Jimmy Howard is your player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings.