Red Wings-Predators Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock isn't making any excuses for his team's recent struggles despite having a banged-up club.
A victory over the team that knocked Detroit out of last season's playoffs likely would relieve some stress, though.
Visiting Detroit faces Central Division rival Nashville for the first time this season looking to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat Tuesday night.
Already needing to replace retirees Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom, the Red Wings have battled multiple injuries and been forced to play six rookies - not including Swiss newcomer Damien Brunner.
Johan Franzen is on injured reserve due to a hip injury, Todd Bertuzzi is nursing a back problem that should keep him out at least another couple of weeks and plenty of others are fighting nagging injuries.
"When we put on our sweaters we have to find a way to win," Babcock told the team's official website. "It doesn't matter who's in, who's out, who's at home. It's the NHL. Let's play."
Detroit (7-6-2), though, has gone 0-2-1 over its last three after falling 3-2 at Minnesota on Sunday. Pavel Datsyuk scored after missing Friday's loss to Anaheim with a sore shoulder, and Mikael Samuelsson returned after sitting out 12 games with a groin injury.
The Red Wings begin a difficult stretch of four games in six days, starting with their visit to Nashville.
"You have to win and get points in this league, otherwise you lose sight of things in a hurry," Babcock said. "Right now, we're taking on water."
The Predators have won six of the last seven meetings, including last season's five-game first-round playoff triumph over Detroit.
Nashville (7-3-5) had gone 6-1-2 over its previous nine before falling 6-5 at Colorado on Monday afternoon. It had a solid offensive performance, though, after entering the contest as the league's lowest-scoring team.
Shea Weber scored for the second straight game after going his first 14 without a goal.
The Predators allowed two goals in 13 seconds in the second period, and the Avalanche also scored what amounted to be the deciding goal when the referees failed to whistle them for offsides on a play the NHL later conceded the officials got wrong.
Coach Barry Trotz tried not to use that as an excuse, though.
"I felt we should have had a point," Trotz said. "Everybody has a bad day. That's part of life, that's part of the game. Certain things are going to happen and you can't control them."
Chris Mason allowed each goal on 18 shots before giving way to Pekka Rinne, who stopped 10 shots and should get the start Tuesday.
After starting the season 0-2-3 with a 2.67 goals-against average, Rinne is 6-1-1 with a 0.97 GAA and three shutouts over his last eight starts. He's 6-1-0 with a 1.72 GAA in his last seven outings versus Detroit, including the 2011-12 playoffs.
Tuesday will mark the return to Nashville for Red Wings forward Jordin Tootoo, who had 127 points in eight seasons for the Predators before signing a three-year contract with Detroit this past offseason.
"It's a little different being on (the other) side," Tootoo said. "But this is part of being a professional hockey player. I think there are going to be a lot of mixed emotions out there. It should be interesting and I'm excited."
It's unclear if Nashville center Paul Gaustad, who suffered an upper-body injury in the second period Monday, will be able to play in this contest.
Updated February 18, 2013