That opening series could feature a matchup between the Red Wings and Predators, making Friday night's game between the clubs at Joe Louis Arena a crucial one.
Detroit (46-26-5) wrapped up a team-record 21st consecutive postseason berth Monday and Nashville (44-25-8) claimed its seventh in eight seasons with San Jose's loss to Anaheim on Wednesday.
The Red Wings' 4-2 loss in Columbus on that same day, however, left them only a point ahead of the fifth-place Predators in the Western Conference. The fourth-place team will start its opening series on home ice, but neither club appears primed to take full command of that advantage.
Detroit is 3-7-2 in its last 12, including a 3-2 loss in Tennessee on March 10, while Nashville is 3-4-1 in its last eight.
The Red Wings' 7-2 rout of Columbus at Joe Louis on Monday was their second win in a row, but they couldn't recover after giving up the first two goals in Wednesday's rematch.
"We weren't happy with our performance," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We knew they were going to be better. We as a team didn't respond well to that. We made some mistakes early and that they capitalized on and that gave them a lot of momentum."
Detroit played that game without top goaltender Jimmy Howard, who is dealing with a nagging groin injury. Backup Joey MacDonald has also been out with back spasms, meaning Ty Conklin could start his fifth straight game.
Conklin is 2-3-2 with a 3.18 goals-against average in his last seven matchups with Nashville and that could give the Predators the edge they need in their attempt to take over fourth place.
Nashville, though, has lost both games in Detroit this season and is 2-3-1 in its last six away from home. The Red Wings, meanwhile, are seeking a third straight home win and a victory in the season series.
Detroit, which has won three of five matchups in 2011-12, prevailed 2-1 over Nashville at Joe Louis on Feb. 17 when Pavel Datsyuk scored with five seconds left. Valtteri Filppula had two goals and an assist during a 4-1 home victory Nov. 26.
"They've got a good team, but I think we've got a good team. It's going to be fun," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the team's official Twitter feed.
With a combined nine goals in consecutive victories over the weekend, the Predators looked as if they had regained their scoring touch following winger Alexander Radulov's return from Russia. Nashville, though, followed up those efforts with a 3-0 defeat in St. Louis on Tuesday that denied coach Barry Trotz his 500th career win.
"We didn't get much going offensively," defenseman Kevin Klein said. "We played a lot in our end and that doesn't equal success. We didn't do the little things like we normally do and we didn't execute. We have to put this behind us and move on."
The Predators played without leading scorer Martin Erat (upper-body injury) for the second straight game while winger Jordin Tootoo sat out because of injuries suffered during a fight in Chicago on Sunday. It's unclear whether Erat, Tootoo or defenseman Roman Josi (upper body) will play Friday.
Tootoo is tied for the team lead with four points against the Red Wings this season, while Henrik Zetterberg is one of three Detroit players - along with Datsyuk and Filppula - with five points versus the Predators.
Zetterberg also has four goals and four assists over his last four overall contests.
- Nashville Predators