Nashville (28-19-7) at Detroit (32-15-6)

By JEFF BARTL, STATS Writer Tuesday, Feb 8, 2011 Puck Drop: 7:30 pm EST Wed Feb 9, 2011

In the game before the Detroit Red Wings welcomed back Pavel Datsyuk(notes), their offense sputtered against the Nashville Predators over the weekend.

His return gives the Red Wings good reason to think a repeat of that performance is unlikely.

Detroit looks to pad its Central Division lead when it hosts second-place Nashville on Wednesday night looking to even the season series.

Datsyuk had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night, marking a successful return after missing 19 games with a broken right wrist.

It was the star center’s first action since Dec. 22, but he is tied for third on the Red Wings (32-15-6) with 41 points.

“We know how good he is offensively and defensively, so it gives our team a boost to have a world-class player like him back,” captain Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) said. “It didn’t look like he had missed 19 games.”

Though Datsyuk didn’t appear rusty, he said he’s not yet fully healthy.

“I need more games, for sure,” Datsyuk said. “And, maybe more work out off ice.”

Another meeting with the Predators may help. Datsyuk has three goals and two assists in two games against them this season, and he has 13 points in his last seven matchups with Nashville as Detroit has gone 5-1-1.

The Predators (28-19-7) have lost five of six, with the only victory in that stretch being a 3-0 win Saturday over the Red Wings, who were without Datsyuk. Sergei Kostitsyn(notes) scored twice and captain Shea Weber(notes) added a goal while Pekka Rinne(notes) stopped 35 shots.

Rinne, though, was pulled in the third period Monday and Nashville was shut out for the first time since Dec. 26 in a 4-0 loss to lowly Edmonton. Weber said the Predators seemed to lose their edge after wasting good opportunities in the first period, when they outshot the Oilers 16-6.

“I think it was frustrating,” Weber said. “I think we kind of sagged on the bench. We did have a great first period, we had a lot of chances, and we just didn’t capitalize. And credit to them, they did capitalize on their chances.”

The Predators trail the Red Wings by seven points despite winning two of three meetings this season.

Detroit’s Jimmy Howard(notes) didn’t play in Saturday’s matchup but was back in net Monday and made a season-high 45 saves for his third win in four starts. He’s lost his last two games against the Predators, including a 3-2 home defeat Dec. 8 the only time he faced them this season.

Rinne has lost four of his last five starts but is 6-2-2 with a 2.17 GAA in his career against Detroit.

The Red Wings expect to have Tomas Holmstrom(notes) back Wednesday after he missed the last nine games with a hand injury, but the status of Valtteri Filppula(notes) is uncertain after he suffered a lower-body injury against the Rangers.

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