Mornin' folks. Glad to see you here. Amazing how the return of Pavel Datsyuk can brighten your day, isn't it? The Detroit Dangler returned to the lineup on Monday versus the Rangers and immediately made an impact, scoring a goal and adding an assist on the Wings' way to a 3-2 victory. However, we're not interested in hanging large meaning to inter-conference shutout-streak-breaking contests against backup goalies on mid-level playoff teams. No, we're not even terribly interested in the concept of a "statement game" in February.
Ok, that's a lie.
Detroit's last ten games haven't been exactly confidence-inspiring and they want to go into a divisional contest with some fire to show Nashville that the seven-point deficit they're facing to reach the summit of the Central is more than just a hill of beans. The Preds have won only one of their last six games. The bad news is that the one win they claim was a 3-0 shutout of the Wings in Nashville last Saturday. In their most recent contest, they were blanked 4-0 by the Oilers in Devan Dubnyk's first career shutout in 33 starts. Take the jump for the details on tonight's game, including the news of one injury return and another injury sit-out.
On the Forecheck is your SB Nation source for all things Predators.
Preview and form after the jump
- Tomas Holmstrom returns to the lineup after missing nine games since breaking his hand against Columbus on January 14th. No doubt he'll be angry and rearing to go. I, for one, am excited, as Holmstrom usually plays very well the angrier he is. He's like the Hulk of hockey.
- The hockey giveth and the hockey taketh away. The Wings won't have to make any roster moves or sit anybody who played on the third or fourth lines Monday, because center Valtteri Filppula is out at least a weak with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Flip played just over ten minutes through two periods against the Rangers when he and Brandon Dubinsky collided knee-to-knee in the corner, knocking him out of the game. There was nothing dirty about the play, it's just unfortunate for a guy who's having the best points-per-game season of his career to this point.
- I'm looking for power play goals by Detroit in this one. Yes. Goals. Plural. For a special teams unit that has scored on only two of their last 30 attempts, something has to break and it might as well happen against the league's third-best penalty kill. Let's see how well Rinne stops shots with Homer's butt in the way.
- On the other side, I'd like to see Detroit's 18th-ranked penalty kill take advantage of a struggling Nashville power play unit that converts on only 14.3% of chances, good for 26th place. Salei and Lidstrom will be big parts of this. Also, I'm already preparing the bronze statues for Eaves and Miller, just in case either of them are brave enough to go down to sacrifice a Shea Weber slap shot.
- Player to Watch: Joel Ward. He's the kind of hard-working guy that makes any lineup better with him in it. Also, dude loves to play against the Wings. He always finds ways to burn us.
Score Prediction: 4-2 Detroit. Nashville is again struggling to score goals, but we consider only 2 given up as a pretty sizable victory these days. The commitment back to defense returns when the team's best backchecker did.
- Player of the Game Prediction: Pavel Datsyuk. He loves playing against Kevin Klein.
Around the League: Matt Cooke was involved in another cheap hit, his second in two games and one-millionth of his career, as he boarded Columbus' Fedor Tyutin. Something's got to be done about this guy. I'm just praying the league takes care of it before there's a player out there who takes matters into his own hands.
- For Discussion: Related, how many suspensions/majors should a player get before the league starts automatically fining the organization and the coach for playing the guy when he crosses the line? Would that help stem the tide?