DETROIT – For just the second time in the last 20 seasons, the Wings will start the postseason on the road, beginning Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Nashville.
“It is a clean slate,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Everybody starts from scratch. Everybody starts at zero again with wins and losses, so that’s the same approach for our team. Now we have to get playoff ready, get into that playoff mode where you play well defensively.”
The only other time the Wings began the playoffs on the road during that stretch was two seasons ago in Phoenix and they advanced to the next round in seven games.
“You have to play well on the road to have success in the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “You have to win a game or two on the road and play well on the road.
“I’m sure there’s going to be some hard-fought games, we’ve seen them a lot, we’ve played them a lot, we know their tendencies, they know our team well, too,” Lidstrom added. “It’s going to be a tough series for us.”
Detroit lost out on its bid at the fourth seed after falling in a shootout to Chicago Saturday afternoon. Had the Wings won they would have still needed the Predators to lose to Colorado in regulation later that night. Nashville wound up beating the Avalanche 6-1.
“Anyone you play it’s going to be a tough first series,” Lidstrom said. “The first round is always the toughest to get going, from regular season hockey to playoff hockey. It really doesn’t matter who you play because all the teams are so good right now.”
At 17-21-3, Detroit has the worst road record of any playoff teams in the West Conference.
“I’m pretty confident (we’re playoff ready),” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Now I don’t think we’ve been good enough here in the last while on a consistent basis. I think we play hard, but we don’t score like we did at all.”
“I don’t think it’s been bad all year,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We had some stretches when we were bad but I think we’re a pretty good team, we know what we need to do to prepare ourselves for playoffs.
“Last 10 games have been a lot of fun,” Zetterberg added. “All the points have been really important for us and you look at the standings every day and you had different matchups every day for the first round. So I think we’re happy with the way we’ve been playing, still we can do a lot of things better. Our (penalty kill) has been good. I think our power play, the last 10, has been pretty good. But that’s going to be huge going into the postseason, special teams is mostly what wins series. That’s got to be better.”
Detroit has gone 25-for-25 on the PK in the last seven games.
Despite their road woes, the Wings, who went 7-11-4 in their final 22 regular season games, are pleased their travel will be limited to begin the playoffs.
“I think when you get into series two and three, not that we’re looking ahead, but it pays off to be able to be only an hour away or whatever it is,” Brad Stuart said. “You’re not going back and forth across the country because that does wear you down. You can say it doesn’t but it does. So it’s nice we don’t have to do that right off the bat.”
Each of the last two seasons the Wings started the first round of the postseason playing Phoenix and ended their season with San Jose.
“We almost had to go to the West Coast so it’s nice to get short travel,” Zetterberg said. “We didn’t want to lose (Saturday) and have a chance to go to the West Coast.”
Detroit and Nashville split the season series 3-3.
“I think it helps just traveling one time zone instead of going all the way out to the West Coast the first round, it takes its toll on the body,” Lidstrom said. “It’s a shorter trip down to Nashville. They’re going to be a tough team to play against.”
The Wings and Predators have met two other times in the playoffs, both times in the first round and both times Detroit won the series in six games.
The first meeting took place in the 2004 playoffs and the last time was in 2008.
“It’s huge, we’re not going out to the West Coast,” Jimmy Howard said. “For the last few years we’ve been back-and-forth to the Western time zone. We’ve been out there enough times. It’s nice we’re not going there to start, but to be there in June you’ve got to beat some real good teams.”
The Predators had never won a series in the playoffs until last year when they took out Anaheim in six games. They fell in the next round to Vancouver in six games.
Western Conference Quarterfinals
No. 4 Nashville vs. No. 5 Detroit
Game 1: April 11, Wednesday, at Nashville, 8 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
Game 2: April 13, Friday, at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
Game 3: April 15, Sunday, at Detroit, Noon (NBCSN, CBC)
Game 4: April 17, Tuesday, at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
*Game 5: April 20, Friday, at Nashville, 8 p.m. (CNBC, CBC)
*Game 6: April 22, Sunday, at Detroit, TBD (TBD)
*Game 7: April 24, Tuesday, at Nashville, TBD (TBD)