Wings Blank Preds to Clinch Central Division

“At that point in the game, we really wanted to send a message.” -Barrett Jackman of the St. Louis Blues, on Saturday’s classless attempt at sore loser revenge on the Red Wings

Well, Barrett, here’s the response to your “message”: Have fun with the Avalanche or Canucks in Round One. The Red Wings ensured themselves the Central Division banner and at least third seed in the standings with a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

The Predators, out of the playoffs altogether, proved to be a tough opponent to crack. Part of the problem, obviously, was the lack of energy which seems to be inherent when playing a team which cannot make the playoffs. However, the Predators always bring their best game when they have to play the Red Wings, and tonight was just the same.

The first period started at a slow pace. The Red Wings had some penalties to kill off, but they did so skillfully, and Curtis Joseph was sharp and ready to stop any shots which made it through to his net.

When the Red Wings got a power play chance of their own midway through the second period, they showed once again why they have the highest ranked power play in the NHL. Pavel Datsyuk made a pass up to Sergei Fedorov in front of the net. Fedorov rang a hard shot off the goal post, but Steve Yzerman was waiting on the other side of the goal crease to grab up the rebound and stuff it into the net past goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

The Predators had a good chance to tie the game up in the third period. Tomas Holmstrom was sent to the penalty box for a high-sticking double minor penalty, but the Red Wings’ penalty killers did an excellent job of playing “keep-away” with the puck and not letting Nashville get set up. In fact, the best scoring chance on the Nashville power play was for Detroit, when Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby stole the puck and sped up the ice on a two-on-one rush.

Fedorov added his 33rd goal of the season to increase Detroit’s lead to two with 6:49 left to play. The Red Wings were on a power play, with Karlis Skrastins in the penalty box for holding. Holmstrom brought the puck back towards the blue line, then made the pass across to Fedorov. Fedorov rifled a hard shot towards the net. The puck deflected just slightly off the stick of a Nashville player, and lifted up and over Vokoun into the net.

The Predators pulled Vokoun from net for an extra skater with 1:26 left to play, but again, the Red Wings puck control was excellent. Brett Hull made a rinkwide pass to Henrik Zetterberg, skating up the left wing side. Zetterberg carried the puck into the Nashville zone and flipped it into the empty net to put the game away.

Shots on net were 27 to 24 in Nashville’s favor. The Red Wings’ next game will be Thursday night against the New York Islanders.

Assistant coach Joey Kocur was suspended for two games for throwing a folding chair onto the ice during the brawl at the end of Saturday’s game in St. Louis”¦. Zetterberg’s goal was the first empty net goal of his young career”¦. The shutout was the 41st of Joseph’s career and his second in the past week”¦. Fedorov’s goal was the 397th of his career. Hmmm, can we fit in one more milestone before the end of the season?

Black and Blue Wings Return Home to Host Preds

Only four games remain on the Detroit Red Wings schedule; yet their playoff fate is still unknown. Detroit will be assured the number one seed in the West if they can notch 2 points in all four of their remaining games. However, even if Detroit were to come out victorious in the rest of their match-ups, the positioning of the 6th, 7th, and 8th ranked teams are still undefined. Only one point separates the Ducks, Oilers, and Wild in the Western Conference standings. Their first step to nabbing first place in the West will be taken Monday night, when the Red Wings host the Nashville Predators.

Wasn’t Wrestlemania scheduled for Sunday night? That is what the Red Wings must have been thinking as they returned home after their passionate meeting with the St. Louis Blues. With the 6-2 blowout, Detroit added two more points to their total, which now stands at 104. One of Detroit’s biggest concerns, one that is surely present on all playoff contender’s coach’s minds, will be to remain healthy. After the type of game they were forced to play on Saturday, they are probably happy to be taking on the Nashville Predators

The last time Detroit met up with Nashville, they were facing a team that had their sights set on making the playoffs. Those hopes have since vanished, as the Predators were knocked out of playoff contention on March 25th with a 1-1 ties against the Flyers. A team that was only 3 points out of a playoff spot on March 1st must now regroup to go at it again next season. On Saturday night, the Predators were handed another loss at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers. It shall be interesting to see if the Predators can come crawling into the Joe with any passion.

The Red Wings are 2-1-1-0 against the Pred’s this season.

-Players To Watch-
Nashville- #29 Tomas Vokoun. Heart and soul of the Predator’s. He has participated in 65 games for Nashville this season, and his play has caused many to believe that he is the biggest reason the team had a shot at the playoffs.

Detroit- #17 Brett Hull. Notching another hat trick in the game against St. Louis, the old goat probably wouldn’t mind seeing his goal total exceed 40.

-Out or in Doubt-
Nashville- Andreas Johansson LW (Wrist/Questionable), David Legwan C (Collarbone/Out), Stu Grimson LW (Concussion/Out), Vladmir Orszagh RW (Shoulder/Questionable)

Detroit- Jiri Fischer D (Knee/Out)

-Between da Pipes-
Nashville- #29 Tomas Vokoun (25-27-11, 2.23 GAA, .917 SV%, 3 SO), #34 Wade Flaherty (0-1, 4.71 GAA, .852 SV%)

Detroit- #31 Curtis Joseph (32-18-6, 2.52 GAA, .911 SV%, 4 SO), #34 Manny Legace (14-5-3, 2.06 GAA, .929 SV%, 0 SO)

-Most Points This Season vs. Opposition-
Nashville- Adreas Johansson (3 goals, 3 assists) vs. Detroit

Detroit-#14 Brendan Shanahan (4 goals, 1 assist) vs. Nashville

The game will be televised locally at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on FOX DETROIT.