Playing chicken on skates: The Predators and Red Wings pull the goalies in Detroit

We are headed back to Hockeytown this weekend to watch the Red Wings host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. My first time at Joe Louis Arena, one year ago, was so great, and I can’t wait for this next visit.

Detroit and Nashville used to see a lot of each other when both played in the Western Conference’s stacked central division. They have fewer opportunities to square off since Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference this year, though, so each meeting takes on greater importance.   

It’s difficult to imagine more important circumstances, at least as far as January hockey is concerned, under which these two teams will meet on Saturday. At press time, Nashville is the best team in hockey. The Red Wings continue to outperform dismal preseason expectations, and I have them as the ninth-best team overall.

This is the Predators’ first season in franchise history without coach Barry Trotz behind the bench. As their record demonstrates, they’re doing alright without their long-tenured leader. A big reason for Nashville’s success this year, as it has been for the past few years, is the stellar play of goalie Pekka Rinne. With the team climbing to the top of the standings, many regarded Rinne as the best goalie in the league this season. His history with the Predators and his performance this year make the announcement Thursday that Rinne will miss three to five weeks with a sprained knee all the more devastating.

The Red Wings will be in similar shape on Saturday night. Their starter, Jimmy Howard, had to be carried off the ice on Sunday after suffering a groin injury in a game against the Capitals. Howard’s replacement is Petr Mrazek, who somewhat famously wore a Peter Griffin-inspired mask while playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

I’ve seen these teams in action once before, on a night when the Predators wholly embarrassed the Red Wings in Nashville. I think Charlie Daniels was there. I can’t really be sure, as my head was spinning after the Predators scored five goals in the first period, including three in a 1:24 span, on their way to an 8-0 win. With Howard and Rinne both out for Saturday’s game, I’m not sure what exactly to expect, but I know it can’t help but be better than what occurred on that unfortunate night in Music City back in 2009.

Thanks again to the kind people at Fox Sports Detroit and Olympia Entertainment for making this trip possible. For more, follow @ALDLANDia during the game for updates from inside the Joe.

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