NHL Hockey: Detroit Wings at Nashville Predators - Predators Favored
The Nashville Predators try to extend their lead in the Central Division when they host the second-place Detroit Red Wings in the first game of a home-and-home series on Tuesday.
These teams play again Wednesday in Detroit and on March 29 in Nashville. Last week, the Red Wings beat the Predators 4-3 in a shootout at home.
Nashville - which hasn't lost in regulation since Feb. 17, going 7-0-3 in that span - has an NHL-leading 98 points, three more than the Red Wings. The Predators also lead Anaheim by three points in the race for the Western Conference's top seed.
The Predators (46-18-6) could reach 100 points with a victory on Tuesday and open up a big lead if they sweep the home-and-home set with the Red Wings. Detroit (43-17-9), though, also has a chance to take over first place if it comes away with two wins.
These teams have met five times this season, with the home side winning each game.
"It's going to be huge," Nashville defenseman Kimmo Timonen said after his team beat Columbus 2-1 on Saturday. "That's why you play these games, to get ready for those games. It's going to be a huge two games."
The Predators are wrapping up a three-game homestand after winning the first two over Calgary and Columbus. Missing several key players on Saturday, Nashville got a goal and an assist from both Paul Kariya and David Legwand to beat the Blue Jackets and sweep the season series with Columbus.
Kariya has three goals and four assists during a five-game point streak for the Predators, who were missing Peter Forsberg, Steve Sullivan, Scott Hartnell and Scott Nichol on Saturday.
"We have to get our rest and get prepared for them," Kariya said of the Red Wings. "We know it's going to be a high-energy couple of games and really enjoyable. Those are the games you live for."
These teams have split their last nine regular-season meetings, though Detroit beat Nashville 4-2 in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.
The Red Wings had recorded a point in 10 straight games, going 7-0-3, before getting blown out 6-3 by Boston on Sunday in the finale of a five-game homestand. Detroit allowed three goals in the third period and has given up 26 in its last eight games.
"We earned this. This has been coming for awhile," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We can't, from the back end, continue to turn over the puck like we have been."
Detroit also gave up six goals in its last regulation loss before Sunday, a 6-1 defeat to Philadelphia on Feb. 12.
The Red Wings have won three of their last four on the road, with the only blemish a 4-3 overtime loss to the Predators on Feb. 24.
by: Gary Roberts - theSpread.com - Email Us
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