Tonight we get a better sense of where this series is headed. Will the Wings duplicate their strong effort of Wednesday night and be rewarded with a win this time around, or will the Predators get both the bounces and the hard work to take a 2-0 lead? Or some other combination? Between the Weber and penalty fest storylines, this should be a typically entertaining playoff game.
The Predators played a good game in the opener, but mainly won due to bounces. They may need a little more than that tonight if they want to keep on the winning side of things. Keys to the game for the Predators:
- Forecheck: One thing the Wings have not been good with this year is defending against a persistent forecheck. The Predators have the speed to really cause the Wings’ trouble in their own end when attempting to break out. They need to use it tonight.
- Rinne: I thought he seemed to be slipping ever so slightly late in the game. They need him to be as ridiculously sharp as he was before that, but all night.
- Weber: The Wings will not go after him, but if he ends up having a standout game, it could throw them off. He’s been given a gift by the League. If he takes full advantage of it, the Predators will be in good shape.
The Wings are getting a break again: Hall Gill is out tonight.
For the Wings, this comes close to a must-win situation. They need a game on the road in Nashville and might as well make it tonight to avoid a two game hole. Keys to the game for them:
- Puck on Net: The polar opposite of this key would be “Find the Perfect Play.” What they need to do is just put the puck on net and follow it there. Good things happen to those who crash the net with authority. This is how you make your own bounces.
- Stay Out of the Box: You can rightfully argue that there’s only so much they can do about this one if the refs are going to call the game a certain way. But the best way to stay out of the box even on those whistle-happy nights is to hold on to the puck. Guys without the puck should always be looking to get the puck from the guy who has it. The puck is the thing.
- Helm: Play like him.
The Wings did not have a mandatory skate today. Which is fine by me. It’s the playoffs and they should be reserving their bodies for the game. If they hadn’t skated yesterday, I’d be a bit more annoyed. But as it is, they did skate yesterday and worked on net front presence stuff, which was the big takeaway from Game 1. Today’s a game preparation day, which during the playoffs can mean conserving energy and resting. If they lose tonight, they’ll skate tomorrow and the loss will not be because they didn’t skate today.
Anyway, in lineup news, Gustav Nyquist is in, but on the third line. Chris Conner, the most comparable player to Helm that’s available, will sit out. That’s what happens when you stack four natural centers on the top two lines (not that I’m complaining about that: those lines work). Emmerton’s sole value at this point is he’s a center.
But as Brian Hedger notes, it is odd that Cleary’s still in given his condition. I didn’t pay close enough attention to him in Game 1 to really rip that move, but he didn’t stand out positively, either. Could swap him for Conner, no?
And finally, the refs are Brad Watson and Mike Leggo. So get ready for that.