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GAME: Nashville Predators (42-19-8) at Anaheim Mighty Ducks (35-21-12).
TIME: Friday, 10:30 p.m. EST.
The Nashville Predators look to keep the pressure on first-place Detroit in the Central Division when they take on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in a matchup of two of the NHL's hottest teams since the Olympic break.
Nashville is 8-1-2 since the Turin Games. The Predators have been unable to gain much ground on the Red Wings, who are also playing some of their best hockey of the season, but have solidified their hold on fourth place in the Western Conference.
The Preds have a nine-point lead over Colorado for the spot, which guarantees home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Nashville's 27-6-0-1 home mark is the best in the conference.
The Predators didn't look like a team conceding the division title to the Red Wings on Tuesday night, knocking off Detroit 3-2 in a shootout at Joe Louis Arena to end the Wings' six-game winning streak.
Martin Erat's goal in the sixth round was the winner, and Tomas Vokoun stopped Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom after allowing shootout goals to Pavel Datsyuk, Jason Williams and Steve Yzerman.
"I didn't do very good," said Vokoun, who made 39 saves before the shootout. "But our guys came through and scored a bunch of goals and that's why we won."
Nashville has won five in a row and faces Detroit two more times this season, but the Predators won't make catching the Wings their goal.
"We're not going to worry about the Red Wings," forward Mike Sillinger said. "We've got to worry about our game."
The Mighty Ducks, who like the Predators have won seven of eight, trail Colorado by one point for fifth place in the West. Anaheim, which has won four straight and is 8-2-1 since the break, is locked in a tight battle with six teams for the final four playoff spots.
The Ducks' four consecutive victories have come by one goal, including wins over Dallas (2-1) on Monday and the Avalanche (5-4 in a shootout) on Wednesday night.
The win over Colorado was particularly impressive, as Anaheim rallied from three goals down in the first period. Coach Randy Carlyle replaced goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with Ilya Bryzgalov after the Avs fell behind 3-0 midway through the first, and the move seemed to spark the Ducks.
Scott Niedermayer scored twice on the power play, Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist and rookie Chris Kunitz set up two goals, including the equalizer by Andy McDonald with 12:57 left in regulation. Jonathan Hedstrom scored on a penalty shot with 1:38 left in overtime to cap the comeback.
"You have to credit the players. They deserve all the credit in the world," Carlyle said. "It's just an exclamation point to the resiliency that they've been able to show over the course of the season. We were down 3-0 at one point, then 4-1, but they didn't panic. We still found a way. They stuck to the game plan and they never wavered."
Bryzgalov made 18 saves for the Ducks.
"It's huge because we came back from 4-1. It gives the whole team a lot of confidence," Hedstrom said. "Bryz played great after he came in. It was fun to be a part of it."
STANDINGS: Predators - 92 points, 2nd place, 10 PB, Central Division. Mighty Ducks - 82 points, 2nd place, 13 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Steve Sullivan, 30 goals; Paul Kariya, 45 assists and 70 points; Brendan Witt, 164 PIM. Mighty Ducks - Teemu Selanne, 29 goals and 67 points; Niedermayer, 44 assists; Todd Fedoruk, 147 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Predators - Power play: 18.6 percent (80 for 429), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (378 for 446), 6th. Mighty Ducks - Power play: 16.9 percent (68 for 402), 20th (tied). Penalty killing: 84.2 percent (361 for 429), 7th.
GOALTENDERS: Predators - Vokoun (35-14-7, 4 SO, 2.51 GAA); Chris Mason (6-4-1, 3.13). Mighty Ducks - Giguere (22-10-11, 2, 2.59); Bryzgalov (13-11-1, 1, 2.53).
SEASON SERIES: Mighty Ducks, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 1; Mighty Ducks, 4-2. At Nashville, Tenn., Joffrey Lupul scored twice in the first period and Vokoun made 18 of his 36 saves in the opening 20 minutes.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 15-13-7 on the road; Mighty Ducks - 21-9-5 at home.
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