After playing three straight games against teams vying for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Detroit Red Wings host a team trying to challenge for the Central Division lead as they play the Nashville Predators.
The Red Wings have a league-leading 99 points, but the Predators trail by only nine points and have one game in hand. Nashville, which is 1-3-1 against Detroit this season, hosts the final two games between the teams.
Mike Babcock’s team extended its current win streak to to six games with a 7-3 victory Sunday over the Vancouver Canucks The Red Wings started quickly by outshooting the Canucks 17-3 and scoring the first four goals of the game.
“If you can get into a team’s head that they can’t beat us and are going to have to play their best hockey to even be close, that’s going to pay dividends in a playoff series,” said Jason Williams, who scored two goals against Vancouver for his second multi-goal game of the season.
Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and two assists against the Canucks and has seven goals and 15 assists over his last 13 games.
Mathieu Schneider has a four-game goal-scoring streak against the Predators, and the defenseman carries a season-high five-game points streak into this game. Schneider has two goals and five assists in that span.
“One of the reasons we’ve been so good for so long is the group of players we have are very competitive professionals,” said Brendan Shanahan, who has five goals and six assists in his last eight games. “If we were the kind of team that looked at the standings and said we can take it easy tonight we wouldn’t have the kind of success we’ve had.”
Manny Legace has been in net for all five meetings with Nashville this season, posting a 1.40 goals-against average with a .944 save percentage and one shutout. Legace has seven wins in 13 lifetime games against the Predators with a 1.94 GAA.
Nashville wrapped up a perfect four-game homestand with a 4-2 win Monday over St. Louis. Scott Nichol had his first two-goal game as the Predators picked up at least one point for the ninth straight game (7-0-2).
“We have needed big goals in our last couple of games, and he has gotten them for us,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of Nichol. “He plays with a lot of energy. He is a feisty type of guy. You need all kinds of players to be successful as a team. He is part of a good mix.”
Paul Kariya had his second consecutive multi-point game, and has five goals and four assists in his last six games.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun is 6-0-2 with a 1.85 GAA and two shutouts since the Olympic break, but he is just 7-13-3 with a 3.21 GAA lifetime against Detroit.
The Predators would like to carry some of their home dominance to the road, where they are 2-6-2 since Jan. 26. Both of Nashville’s wins this season have come at Detroit.