DETROIT – Home ice was quite an advantage for the Detroit Red Wings during the regular season.
It has also provided an edge in past playoff matchups with the Nashville Predators.
The Red Wings won an NHL-high 31 home games this season, including a league-record 23 straight, and are 6-0 in Joe Louis Arena against Nashville in post-season series they won in 2004 and 2008.
“Obviously that’s a tough place to play,” Predators defenceman Ryan Suter said Saturday. “If we want to win the series, we’re going to have to win a game there. Going into it you’re not looking at it as, ‘Oh jeez we’ve never won there. We gotta win.’ But it’s just more the fact that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we have a good chance to win.”
The Red Wings beat Nashville 3-2 Friday night in Game 2—to tie the first-round series—after losing 3-2 in the opener.
Detroit has a chance to take control of the series by hosting games Sunday and Tuesday night.
“We’ve played fairly well at home,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “And in saying all of that, let’s not put too much into that. They beat us last time in here.”
In fact, the Predators dominated Detroit on the road last month in 4-1 victory that helped them finish two points ahead in the standings to earn home-ice advantage in the matchup of fourth- and fifth-seeded teams.
Nashville finished ahead of the Red Wings for the first time in its 13-season history in part because on the power play, no NHL team was better. In the playoffs, though, Detroit hasn’t allowed the Predators to score on any of their 12 chances with at least one extra skater on the ice.
“We’ve just been doing a great job frustrating them, blocking shots, taking away passing lanes,” Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “I really think it’s the sacrificing the body, the way we’ve been blocking shots. Guys have been putting their bodies on the line out there. It’s not easy to step in front of Shea Weber’s shot. Guys have been doing it.”
Detroit defenceman Ian White paid the price for blocking a shot in the second period of Game 2, hurting his left foot enough that he didn’t practice Saturday. White said X-rays weren’t necessary and he fully expects to play in Game 3.
The Predators haven’t had 6-foot-7 defenceman Hal Gill, one of their in-season acquisitions, in the lineup because of a lower-body injury he got from blocking a shot on April 5 against Dallas. Gill didn’t practice Saturday, but coach Barry Trotz said he is “getting closer” to being able to play and Gill said he hoped to be healthy enough to be on the ice in Game 3.
Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi settled a score by fighting Weber early in Game 2 and the Red Wings went on to even the series.
Weber, who was fined $2,500 for smashing Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass at the end of Game 1 on Wednesday night, insisted he didn’t know what kind of reception he’ll get in Detroit.
The star defenceman did say the Predators’ confidence has not been shaken by losing home-ice advantage they earned during the regular season by allowing Detroit to split the two games in Nashville.
“Five-game series,” Weber said. “We’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.
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