The Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings will meet three times in the next nine days with the Central Division title at stake. The team that overcomes injuries the best likely will emerge in first place.
Detroit looks to extend its point streak to nine while Nashville looks to run its streak to eight Tuesday night in a key matchup at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings (41-16-9) are two points behind the Predators (44-18-5) for the lead in the Central and the Western Conference, but have one game in hand and will face Nashville twice at home in the nine-day span.
Both teams have played very well lately despite the absence of key players.
Detroit has been without second-leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg the past three games due to a back injury, and he is not expected back for two weeks.
Left wing Tomas Holmstrom—fourth on the team with 46 points—was injured in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Colorado and is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Right wing Daniel Cleary missed his fourth consecutive game Sunday with a knee injury, taking another 20-goal scorer out of Detroit’s lineup.
Nashville’s injury list is longer than Detroit’s. The Predators were without five of their top nine scorers in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim as Steve Sullivan (back), Peter Forsberg (upper body), David Legwand (upper body), Scott Hartnell (foot) and Jason Arnott (flu) all sat out.
Despite missing their three top centers, the Predators managed to pick up a point for the seventh straight game (5-0-2).
“We have a lot of work to do,” Nashville’s Paul Kariya said. “We have 15 games left in the regular season, and we’re playing Detroit for the division. Anaheim’s a really good hockey club. They’re a tough team to play here, and we had a lot of key offensive players out.”
Arnott and Legwand are the most likely to play Tuesday, and Forsberg’s injury isn’t considered serious.
With all the injuries, there is additional pressure is on Kariya to produce. The 12-year veteran has responded with five goals and two assists in his last five games.
Also contributing offensively lately is defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who has one goal and seven assists during a six-game point streak.
Detroit needed to score twice in the third period Sunday to record a point for the eighth consecutive game (5-0-3).
Kris Draper had two goals for the Red Wings, who outshot the Avalanche 18-5 in the third period.
“You can’t just expect to play 20 or 25 minutes of a hockey game and win,” Draper said. “And that’s what we did tonight.”
Detroit hasn’t lost at home in regulation in 16 straight games (14-0-2). The Red Wings and Predators each have 23 home wins—tied for second in the NHL behind Calgary, which has 27.
Nashville is tied for the league lead with 21 road victories.
These teams have split four meetings this season, each winning twice at home.