NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Detroit coach Mike Babcock says he worked out any ill feelings over Nashville defenceman Shea Weber being fined for slamming Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass at the end of Game 1.
The coach did it by going for a hard run Thursday.
“I’ve moved on,” Babcock said.
Babcock has enough to worry about losing Darren Helm for the playoffs with a sliced forearm and trying to avoid an 0-2 hole in the first round against Nashville.
A hard-fought series was expected between these Central Division teams separated by only two points over the 82-game regular season, and the Predators stoked the rivalry Wednesday with a 3-2 win marked by 17 combined penalties between the NHL’s least penalized teams.
Nashville averaged an NHL-least 8.4 penalty minutes in the regular season, closely followed by Detroit with 8.5-minutes of penalties per game. So what if commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand Wednesday night for the closely officiated game? Neither Babcock nor Nashville coach Barry Trotz want to see a repeat of repeated traipsing to the penalty box Friday night in Game 2.
“We’re not taking penalties tomorrow,” Babcock said.
Trotz said his Predators have to harness their emotions and stay focused.
“We had a couple guys had out of body experience more than anything,” Trotz said. “We’ll get back to that.”
The one penalty that attracted the most attention, and a $2,500 fine by the NHL on Thursday, came at the end when Weber retaliated for Zetterberg crashing into him from behind, trying to get the puck out in a frantic attempt to score and force overtime. Weber talked to NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and got a reminder to play to the edge and not over.
Zetterberg passed a baseline test and skated Thursday. But the Red Wings left wing called the hit dirty, and his teammates weren’t happy Weber wasn’t suspended.
“We have to focus on the game in hand here, the game coming up tomorrow night,” Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “That’s going to be on our mind and our focus.”
The Red Wings have enough experience to known not to go chasing Weber for retaliation, and Babcock doesn’t see that being possible against the 6-foot-4 defenceman.
“We don’t have the personnel to get back at Weber so we might as well get on with that …,” Babcock said, possibly ignoring that he has 6-foot-3 Todd Bertuzzi on his roster. “This is the way our team is built, and we’ve been built like this for a while. To me, it doesn’t matter what anybody does. When you win the game, that’s what it’s all about so let’s get past any of that.”
Gustav Nyquist will make his playoff debut Friday night with Helm out. Helm had surgery Wednesday night after a skate cut his right forearm during a penalty kill, sending him straight to the bench and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to repair sliced tendons.
With all the penalties, Detroit made them count by scoring two power-play goals on eight man advantages while shutting down the NHL’s best power play team (0 of 6). Detroit also outshot Nashville 37-26 overall after taking only five shots in the first period. A total of 16 shots came with the man advantage, and Babcock said he knows they won’t get that many chances in Game 2.
The Red Wings also must do a better job holding their ground at the crease in front of Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, whose best save came early in the third Wednesday night when he slid across back to his right for a save on Zetterberg. Babcock liked the number of shots they took but thought his players were pushed away too much by the Predators.
Rinne went 14-0-2 when making 35 saves or more during the regular season, and Babcock said Rinne always stops the first shot.
“You better get a second one, and the only way you’re getting a second one is you have a net presence,” Babcock said. “To me, we were too easy to play against in that way.”
The Predators have a chance to take their first ever 2-0 playoff series lead in their seventh post-season.
They won their opener on home ice in 2006 only to be swept by San Jose after that. Nashville won the opener in Chicago in 2010 before losing the second game in a series they lost in six games. They won at Anaheim last year but lost the second game before rebounding to win this franchise’s lone post-season series.
Going up 2-0 before switching to Detroit for Game 3 on Sunday is the main focus, according to Rinne.
“We have a chance to take advantage of this great opportunity to play at home in front of our hands, so that’s what we (are) focusing right now, and hopefully we can do that,” Rinne said.
The Predators know Detroit well enough to expect the Red Wings to come out fast, trying to even the series.
“We know what to expect, and we’re just going to have to play our game and play smart,” Nashville defenceman Kevin Klein said.
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