Predators-Red Wings Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Red Wings have already earned a place in the record books for their remarkable run at Joe Louis Arena, where they haven't lost in more than three months.

If they can extend that streak another week, they might have a clear case as the team to beat in the Western Conference.

Three of the West's top five teams will visit Detroit in the next seven days, starting Friday night with the Nashville Predators.

The Red Wings (39-17-2) secured the longest single-season home win streak in NHL history Tuesday with a 3-1 win over Dallas, their 21st straight victory in the Motor City.

Although the team acknowledged its grateful fans before leaving the ice, coach Mike Babcock - as usual - wasn't about to get too excited.

"I'm proud of the guys, they've worked hard - and now let's get on with it," Babcock said.

It won't be easy to keep it going with Nashville (33-18-6) coming to town, followed by San Jose on Sunday and Vancouver next Thursday after the Red Wings visit Chicago.

The Predators, Sharks and Canucks are among the closest teams to conference-leading Detroit, which has already beaten the other member of the top five - St. Louis - three times during its home win streak.

Nashville had one chance to disrupt the run, which was at five before the Predators lost 4-1 on Nov. 26. Valtteri Filppula scored two goals against Finnish countryman Pekka Rinne in that game, also adding an assist as Detroit racked up a 37-19 advantage in shots.

Rinne, who had won four of five at Joe Louis Arena before that loss, stopped 30 shots Tuesday as the Predators extended another Central Division rival's streak. Nashville dealt the Blackhawks a ninth consecutive defeat and snapped its own three-game skid with a 3-2 win.

"We played with more emotion," coach Barry Trotz said. "To me, a division game, putting some distance between us and them is huge. ... We had sort of stumbled around here a little bit, so it hopefully gets us going in the right direction."

The Predators improved to 7-0-1 when Nick Spaling scores and also got a major boost from Ryan Ellis. The rookie defenseman had his third multipoint performance in 20 games, assisting on Spaling's second-period tally before scoring the game-winner with 5:42 remaining in the third.

Nashville already has two of the six highest-scoring blueliners in the league in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Suter has nine points in his last nine games both overall and against Detroit.

Weber scored twice in the final five minutes to rally Nashville to a 4-3 home win over the Red Wings on Dec. 15 before missing a 4-1 loss in a rematch 11 days later with a concussion.

He figures to be firing Friday at Joey MacDonald, who has filled in ably for the injured Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings' top netminder isn't expected back from a broken finger until Sunday, but MacDonald has posted a 1.72 goals-against average while winning Detroit's last four games.

Henrik Zetterberg has led the offense with three goals and two assists in that stretch, but he won't play Friday due to a lower-body injury.

Detroit, currently just two points clear of Vancouver, will have to find some production elsewhere to extend its run.

"(The home win streak is) something we're going to cherish," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said, "but we've talked about getting more points to stay where we are in the standings."

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