Red Wings-Predators Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Red Wings know they can't live in the past if they want to gain a 22nd consecutive playoff berth.

The visiting Red Wings look to end a three-game skid Sunday night and hand the fading Nashville Predators a sixth straight defeat.

Detroit (19-15-7) is one of many teams in a logjam for one of the last few playoff spots in the Western Conference with 45 points. It's new territory for a franchise that has qualified by winning nine of the last 12 division titles

"To me, you know, strange is living in the past," coach Mike Babcock said. "You guys are talking about other teams. They wear the same sweaters, but other teams. You are what you are. This is what we've earned this year, and this is what our team is."

The Central Division crown was clinched by Chicago with its 3-2 shootout win over Detroit on Friday. The Red Wings fell in a shootout for the second straight game and have totaled four goals over their last three.

Detroit hasn't scored more than three goals in any of its last 10 games, and failed to hold a third-period lead against the Blackhawks.

"(The Blackhawks) tied it up late there in the third," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "After that it was kind of like a tight game all the way to the shootout. Unfortunately we couldn't score more than they did."

Top goal-scorer Pavel Datsyuk has scored twice in his last eight games. Damien Brunner has one in his last 18 games, Zetterberg has gone 10 in a row without scoring and Johan Franzen ended a seven-game goal drought with a tally Friday.

Detroit is 2-6-1 in its last nine against Nashville (15-19-8), including last year's postseason. The Predators have won four of the last five meetings at home, with all being decided by one goal.

Returning to the playoffs seems to be a long shot now for Nashville, which will try and avoid its first six-game slide since Oct. 10-23, 2007. All of these defeats have been in regulation, leaving the Predators stuck on 38 points and 13th in the West.

The Predators are playing without forwards Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad and Gabriel Bourque, who are facing season-ending operations. Mike Fisher and Brandon Yip were scratched from Friday's 5-2 loss to Dallas because of injuries.

Frustration is setting in for defenseman Shea Weber.

"I can't go around babysitting the other guys," he said. "It's a personal thing. At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say you are playing your hardest and you are doing everything you can to help the team win."

Coach Barry Trotz gave Pekka Rinne a break Friday after the goalie started 25 straight games, putting Chris Mason in net for the first time since Feb. 18.

Rinne is 1-4-2 despite a 2.19 goals-against average over his last eight starts. Nashville has scored six goals during its losing streak.

"Our situation is not what we want it to be but there are young guys who are trying to find their way around this league," Trotz said.

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