Masochists, rejoice! Kronwall is out 4-8 weeks with a sprained ligament in his surgically repaired left knee, leaving us with BOTH Brett Lebda and Derek Meech in the lineup for the foreseeable future. Tonight we play the Nashville Predators (aka Bubba). The Predators currently occupy 10th in the Western Conference while Detroit clings to 9th in the West, having taken 3 out of a possible 4 points on the weekend. Nashville stumbled out of the gate this season, but has gone 8-2-0 in their last ten games played. Once again, three out of the four Central Division teams are in play-off positions.
Scoring goals is not something the Nashville Predators do well. They’ve never really boasted a prolific scorer aside brief stints by Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg (yeah…remember when he was there?). The Predators currently rank dead last in the league as far as G/G average with 2.24. Detroit’s one goal game against the Panthers and two goal (three with the shootout) effort against the Canadiens brought their G/G average down slightly. However, they remain at 6th in the NHL with a fairly robust 3.10. Advantage: Detroit
Of course, when a team is struggling to score goals yet is only a couple points out of a play-off spot, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are at least decent at keeping the puck out of their own net. Nashville has had a history of riding a hot back-up goalie, and riding the starter out of town. Dan Ellis stole the job from Chris Mason, Pekka Rinne has stolen the job from him. The sophomore sensation has backstopped his team, which currently ranks 9th in the league with a 2.62 G/A average. The Wings are coming off of Saturdays’ 3-2 shootout win, which helped their goals against slightly. Howard played well on Saturday and Osgood can’t be blamed for Friday’s OT loss. They’ve risen to 16th in the league with a 2.81 G/A average. Advantage: Nashville
Nashville’s abysmal offensive numbers can in part be explained by ineptitude with the man advantage. The Predators are currently only converting 15.7% of their PP chances, which is good enough for 25th overall in the NHL. Detroit’s power play scored twice on Saturday in the first frame, but was shut out the rest of the way. The biggest money-maker on the PP seems to be Rafalski’s slap pass to Datsyuk who camps out just below the circles for a tip-in. Nashville would do well to watch out for that. Detroit’s PP is currently 5th best in the NHL with a 23.9% conversion rate. Advantage: Detroit.
Barry Trotz, the neck-less bench boss for the Nashville Predators always preaches tough team defense. This, along with some stellar play by the Nashville goaltender has allowed the Predators to put up at least decent numbers on the penalty kill. The Preds are currently ranked 16th in the NHL with a 79.7% effectiveness rating. Detroit, has moved up one spot in the rankings, but remain near the bottom of the NHL in penalty killing effectiveness. They are currently ranked 26h in the league with a 75.7% kill rate. Advantage: Nashville
So, if we pull ranks and take the average for GA/G and G/G…
If you combine PK and PP percentages to get an overall effectiveness rating:
The key for a Red Wing’s victory tonight will be to take care of the puck in our own defensive end. With Meech in for Kronwall (dear god, please don’t put Meech and Lebda together as a pair), it’s going to be interesting to see how well we play defense. Meech has looked decent at times, but for the most part, he’s been a huge headache. Nashville doesn’t usually score very many goals, which means they will probably score a lot tonight. No more turnovers in our own end, please.
Detroit was only able to post a 2-3-1 record against Nashville last year, which included an 8-0 demolition in Nashville during a very cold February. Will Trotz start a backup against Detroit tonight? I don’t know, what I do know is that I hate Nashville. This is a team that we should always beat. Yet, we always seem to find a way to lose. Let’s do this.