Red Wings vs. Predators Preview

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NASHVILLE, TN (AP) - The Detroit Red Wings were embarrassed by their play the last time they took the ice. Getting goaltender Jimmy Howard back could help them put that ugly performance behind them.

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Howard is expected to return after a two-game absence, and he will look to help Detroit break out of its funk and move closer to securing the Central Division title when it visits the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

With Howard out due to a sore left shoulder, the Red Wings (44-23-10) gave up eight goals in the first two periods of a game for the first time since 1986 and 10 in a game for the first time since 1993 in a 10-3 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday - the Wings' worst home defeat since 1988.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Bodog.com have made the Predators -111 money line favorites for Saturday's game against the Red Wings. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 55% of more than 74 bets for this game have been placed on the Red Wings +101.

"It's a concern that we didn't work harder than we did last night," captain Nicklas Lidstrom told his team's official website after practice Thursday. "We deserved a hard skate today, the way we played last night.

"We know we have to have the effort there, you have to play within your system and play your structure, but you have to work hard too, and we didn't do that last night."

Detroit, which leads Nashville (42-26-10) by four points in the Central, has won once in six games.

"Basically we have to wake up," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "The games are winding down; the playoffs are coming around the corner. The way we're playing right now, we're not going to win a lot of games. If we keep playing like this, it will be a short run for us in the playoffs."

Howard is 0-2-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average in his last four starts, with one of those defeats coming at Nashville on March 19. He is 0-3-0 with a 3.66 GAA against the Predators this season.

"We need to stop the carousel rides in our own zone," Howard said. "It seems like teams get wound up and just start circling the bandwagons. We need to just stay in spots, talk it out a little more in the defensive zone."

Nashville continued to put pressure on the Wings in the division race with its ninth win in 11 games Thursday, 3-2 at Colorado, but the Predators are no lock to reach the postseason.

They are tied for fifth place in the Western Conference, where a handful of teams are separated by just a few points in the playoff race.

"It's been an amazing season how tight it's been," said Pekka Rinne, who made 27 saves against the Avalanche. "You feel sharp and feel fresh all the time because there's so much on the table."

Nashville has won four straight over Detroit after losing the first meeting this season and is 9-3-2 in the past 14 matchups, including 4-0-2 at home.

"The Red Wings seem to bring the best out of us and our fans," coach Barry Trotz said. "They're not going to be a happy crew (after the 10-3 loss). They'll bring their 'A' game."

Rinne is 8-2-2 with a 1.98 GAA in 12 starts versus the Wings.

"We seem to always have good matchups against Detroit and it's always fun to play against them," Rinne said. "It should be an exciting one."

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