Martin Erat(notes) has been arguably most responsible for helping the Nashville Predators rebound from a brief slump. The Detroit Red Wings already know how dangerous the winger is, especially at home.
Erat will try to stay hot and lead the Predators to their third straight win and fifth in a row over the Red Wings on Saturday night.
The Predators (18-11-2) cooled off with three losses in four games following last month’s seven-game win streak that included a 3-1 home victory over Detroit.
Erat, though, has helped Nashville to a 3-1-0 mark since then by scoring six times during a four-game goal streak. He’s also totaled nine points in a five-game points streak after scoring a goal in Thursday night’s 4-3 shootout victory over visiting Columbus.
“I just hope that it’s going to continue,” Erat said. “We need those points especially in our division.”
The right wing, second on the team with 10 goals, has done most of that damage at home with five goals and an assist in his last three games there. After scoring once in the first seven games in Nashville this season, he has eight goals and two assists in the past eight.
That includes a two-goal performance in the Nov. 23 victory over Detroit. In the past 11 home games against the Red Wings, Erat has seven goals and eight assists, and Nashville has won seven of those contests.
Leading scorer Jason Arnott(notes) hasn’t proved easy to stop for Detroit, either. He scored once in the Predators’ first meeting with the Red Wings, giving him five goals and an assist in his last three games against them.
Arnott also has four goals and three assists over the last five games with two goals and two assists during a four-game homestand that concludes Saturday. He and Erat have helped the Predators score at least three goals in a season high-tying five straight contests.
They’ll face a Red Wings team that had trouble finding the net consistently after leading the NHL in scoring last season.
Detroit (15-11-5) has seen its average dip from 3.52 goals to 2.68 per game. The Red Wings, however, have scored at least three goals five times during a 4-2-1 stretch.
“We needed two points. All you’ve got to do is look at the standings,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to hang in there.”
Detroit has also scored one goal or fewer in seven of 13 games since Nov. 18, and long-term injuries to four forwards and defenseman Niklas Kronwall(notes) haven’t helped. The Red Wings have also suffered with the offseason defections of Marian Hossa(notes) and Mikael Samuelsson(notes) to free agency and Jiri Hudler(notes) to Russia.
The Red Wings seem to have found a solid starting goaltender in the 25-year-old Jimmy Howard(notes), who earned a win Friday, but they could look to veteran Chris Osgood(notes) in the second of back-to-back games.
Osgood is 0-4-1 with a 3.79 goals-against average in his last five against Nashville. Howard has never started versus the Predators but allowed one goal on 19 shots in relief against them Feb. 12, 2008.
A third straight home win over the Red Wings would push the Predators within one point of idle Central Division leader Chicago.