Red Wings-Predators Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Red Wings are getting healthier and putting their struggles behind them in the process.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard could make his first start in nearly three weeks as Detroit seeks a fourth victory in five games when it visits the Nashville Predators on Monday night.

Henrik Zetterberg returned Saturday after missing 11 games with a herniated disk, scoring in the first period to help Detroit (18-13-9) earn a 4-3 win over Florida. Zetterberg's 14 goals and 19 assists tie him for the team lead in points with Pavel Datsyuk, who had two assists.

The Red Wings went 3-6-2 without Zetterberg, and they also dealt with Datsyuk missing seven games from Nov. 24-Dec. 7 because of a concussion.

''Hank brings so much to this team, both on and off the ice,'' said Gustav Nyquist, who also had a goal Saturday. ''With him and Pav playing you can really feel the difference. That's why they're our leaders.''

Detroit also got winger Justin Abdelkader back after he missed five games with a concussion. Wings center Darren Helm, who hasn't played since Dec. 4 due to a sprained shoulder, could also return for this game.

"We won three out of four here suddenly and some things are better, obviously getting (Zetterberg) and (Abdelkader) back," coach Mike Babcock said. "(Abdelkader) skated well, and Zetterberg is just a good player with good will and provides leadership for us."

The Red Wings, though, let an early two-goal lead slip away. After this contest, they'll face Toronto in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

"We made some big mistakes," Babcock said. "We found a way to win a game and we're going to skate a lot better after another day's practice. Everyone had turkey legs at the start, but they got going."

Detroit never could get going despite having a healthy roster in its first meeting with its former division rival, falling 2-0 at home to Nashville on Nov. 19 to snap its three-game winning streak in the series.

Howard made 23 saves in that contest, and he's on track to make his first start since Dec. 10 after sitting out the last eight with a sprained left MCL. Jonas Gustavsson, who has gone 3-2-1 with a 3.10 goals-against average in Howard's absence, didn't practice Sunday because of a sore groin.

Shea Weber scored and Marek Mazanec made 27 saves in the first meeting with Detroit, and each played a role Saturday as Nashville ended a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over Los Angeles.

Mike Fisher scored his second goal of the game with 26.4 seconds remaining - 10 seconds after the Kings tied it - and Weber added an assist for the Predators (17-18-4).

''This was a huge game for us,'' Weber said. ''We have been on a tough stretch this past year, but hopefully we can get it right now.''

Mazanec went 0-5-1 with a 3.70 GAA in his previous eight appearances, but he made 26 saves to earn the win.

''He made some timely saves when we needed him to and he was calm back there,'' coach Barry Trotz said. ''From our standpoint, it was a combination of solid goaltending and a desperate competitive team.''

It's unclear if Mazanec or Carter Hutton will get the start in this contest. Hutton is 0-3-1 with a 4.10 GAA in his last five outings, including four starts.

Howard is 3-1-0 with a 1.01 GAA over his last four against the Predators.

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