Detroit Red Wings: Can They Win No. 22 Tonight?

Jim BalintCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15:  Johan Franzen #93 of the Detroit Red Wings races Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators for the puck at the Bridgestone Arena on December 15, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

No Zetterberg, no Howard. No Problem?

Tonight’s tilt against the Nashville Predators will be Detroit’s toughest test at home since the record-setting win streak started. The Predators’ hard-hitting style of play and stellar goaltending has given the Wings fits in the past.

The absence of Henrik Zetterberg (lower body injury) further complicates the matter. The all-world forward was starting to heat up, with nine points in his last six games. With Z out of the lineup, coach Mike Babcock will have to shuffle lines. Tomas Tartar has been called up from Grand Rapids and will make his season debut.

Babcock released his line combinations to start the game:










Nashville has won their last seven games against Central Division opponents, outscoring them 22-8. Their last division loss came at the hands of the Wings, 4-1, as part of this 21-game streak. This game is huge if Nashville has any hope of winning the Central Division crown. They currently sit eight points back of Detroit with one game in hand.

Expect Nashville to look for a fast start with lots of physical play and a steady forecheck. Detroit will try and weather the storm with its usual mix of speed and puck control.

If Detroit is to win this game, it will need its powerplay to show up. Being 5-for-39 is very uncharacteristic for this club, and it will need those units firing on all cylinders if they’re going to do anything in the playoffs.

The PP has shown some signs of life in their last two games—that trend needs to continue. The Wings won’t get many chances to capitalize, as the Preds take the fifth-fewest penalties in the league.

Head-to-head this season, the Wings have won two blowouts, while Nashville won a 4-3 nail-biter. Given Detroit’s recent dominance at home, giving them the nod would be elementary. Without Z and Howard, the number one star the last time these teams met, I’m giving the slight edge to Nashville.