Wings Host Preds in GM 1

The Detroit Red Wings led the NHL in points for the third time in four seasons and the sixth time since 1995.

No other team has won the President's Trophy more than twice since the league started recognizing the accomplishment a little more than two decades ago.

But the Red Wings are well aware the hardware doesn't guarantee anything other than home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

They lost to eighth-seeded Edmonton in the first round two years ago and have followed up a President's Trophy with a Stanley Cup only once.

``We've had good regular seasons and that hasn't meant anything at all for us in the first round,'' Kris Draper - a Red Wing since 1993 - said Wednesday. ``We're playing a team that battled to get into the playoffs and they had to get ready every game. They were in a totally different situation than we were.''

That team is the Nashville Predators, who hope the pressure-packed games to get into the playoffs and a five-day break will help them in Game 1 on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.

The Predators went 5-0-1 to secure the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Detroit -246 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 73% of bets for this game have been placed on Detroit –246 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

``I think we needed a little bit of time away from the rink,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. ``We had a bunch of guys playing banged up, injured, fatigued and mentally there was a lot of strain the last two months of pushing.

``I think we're ready now to go to Detroit. Another day would be too much. I think the timing is real perfect for us.''

Nashville hopes Dan Ellis' time is now.

The 27-year-old goalie is expected to make his playoff debut in a storied venue against one of the hockey's elite franchises

``You can't tiptoe your way into the series,'' Ellis said. ``They're a team that can do some damage if you're not prepared.''

To have a shot at upsetting the Red Wings in the seven-game series, Nashville likely needs him to be sensational.

He was just that last month when he set a franchise record with a 233:38 shutout stretch and made 147 straight stops - the NHL's longest streak this season - and finished with a league-high .924 save percentage.

``He's a great story,'' Trotz said. ``He fits the mold of a Nashville Predator. Other teams have given up on him. He's come in here, thrown a job and he's taken full advantage of it.''

The Red Wings, meanwhile, will be relying on Dominik Hasek and his 115 games of playoff experience.

After successfully rotating Hasek and Chris Osgood, who helped Detroit give up the fewest goals this season, Babcock plans to stick exclusively with the Dominator.

``Dom is not going to struggle,'' said Babcock, attempting to shoot down a question about the possibility of playing Osgood.

Babcock also deflected any concern about the age of some key players, such as 43-year-old Hasek, 46-year-old Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom, who turns 38 later this month.

Chelios will match Patrick Roy's NHL record of 247 playoff games when he takes his first shift Thursday night and will extend his own mark by making his 23rd appearance in the playoffs.

``I believe playoffs are the fountain of youth,'' Babcock said. ``If you watch some of these 40-something and 30-something players in October, it's not very pretty. Sometimes, it's not even that pretty in February.

``But it's usually pretty good this time of year.''

The Red Wings' old and young players were productive enough to help the team earn 115 points, seven more than any other team.

They tied a league record with at least 100 points for an eighth straight season and extended the longest active postseason streak in major pro sports, earning a spot in the playoffs for the 17th straight season.

``Contrary to popular belief, it all matters,'' Babcock said. ``The league has gotten tighter and better and it's harder to get into the playoffs. Yet, there is no question this is the most fun time of year and this is what it's all about. It's why players play, coaches coach and fans like the sport.

``Everybody talks about how long the playoffs are, but for some teams they're really short. We'd like it to be long.''

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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