Tonight is the fourth of eight games between the Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators this season.
The Wings lead the series 2-1 with wins November 7th (3-2 SO) and December 10th (2-1). The Predators won the November 22nd meeting, 3-2. The remaining games will all be played in March.
The puck drops at 8:00 ET.
The 29-22-6 Predators are 3-1-1 in February. They began the month with a 3-2 overtime win over Phoenix and continued with a 1-0 win over Carolina. They lost 2-1 in overtime to Tampa Bay on the 7th and lost again two nights later in San Jose, 4-3.
They met the Coyotes for the second time this month on Sunday and came out on the winning side of a 6-3 decision. Tonight is the first of a three-game homestand.
Nashville is second in the Central Division with 64 points, 23 behind Detroit. They are currently in 8th place in the West.
J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott lead the team in points with 50 each. Alexander Radulov is the leading goal-scorer with 21. Dumont (20), Arnoot (19), Martin Erat (16), David Legwand (13), and Radek Bonk (12) are the other Predators with double-digit goal totals.
Chris Mason should be in net for the Predators tonight.
The Wings fell to 3-2-1 in February with their third-straight loss Sunday. The skid began last Thursday at home against the Kings after they blew a two-goal lead in the third period. It continued with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday.
On Sunday, they came out on the wrong end of a blown no-goal call and lost 3-2 to the Ducks. The team is two games away from a five-game road trip to Dallas and Denver, as well as Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton.
Despite their current troubles, the Wings remain atop the NHL, with their 87 points giving them an 18-point lead over the second-ranked team, Ottawa.
Henrik Zetterberg leads the team with 33 goals, but he has not scored since the LA game. He also leads the team in points with 70.
Pavel Datsyuk leads the team in assists with 48. Six active Wings have double-digit goals: Tomas Holmstrom (20), Datsyuk (19), Valtteri Filppula (15), Jiri Hudler (11), Johan Franzen (11), and Brian Rafalski (10).
The Wings will be without Niklas Kronwall (sternoclavicular sprain) for the 7th game. Derek Meech will continue to gain NHL experience.
The team will also be without Dan Cleary (broken jaw) for the second straight game. My guess is we'll see Matt Ellis in the lineup tonight rather than Aaron Downey.
I noticed Meech got some time with Lilja Sunday afternoon. I wouldn't be surprised if that continues, as Babcock seems to be gaining confidence in the young defenseman.
With Dominik Hasek day-to-day with an inflamed hip flexor, Chris Osgood will be the starter. Jimmy Howard will back him up.
For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown.
OklahomaWingNut's GDT is here.
Tonight is a big game for the Wings. They have a bit of a slide going and with the tough schedule they have coming up, it could turn into a tailspin if they don't pull out of it quickly.
Friday, the Blue Jackets will be playing for a playoff spot. Sunday, the Wings are in Dallas, the only team that's anywhere near them in the West. Monday, they're facing a team that has given them trouble all season, the Avalanche.
After that, it's a three-game Western Canada swing.
Tonight, the Predators will be fighting to maintain their No. 8 seed. Despite that, they present a good opportunity for the Wings to return to their winning ways.
I can't say that a win tonight is essential, but it'll only get tougher over the next seven or so games.