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DETROIT -- In the childhood bedroom of Anders Lindback in his hometown of Gavle, Sweden, was a poster of Nicklas Lidstrom, a hero to many in his native country.
Facing the legendary blueliner, along with Swedish star Henrik Zetterberg, for the first time in his young NHL career Wednesday night, the 22-year-old Lindback made it a night to remember with a 35-save performance at Joe Louis Arena in a 3-2 victory for his Nashville Predators.
|Anders Lindback made 35 saves as the Predators handed the Wings their third straight loss.|
"It was pretty cool," Lindback, the game's first star, told ESPN.com. "Those are two of the best players in the world. It was a big win for me and for the team. I think we played a great game."
The strapping, 6-foot-6 Lindback improved to 5-1-2 on the season with a .919 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against average, and the Preds need him to run with it after the latest injury to starter Pekka Rinne. The Finnish No. 1 is out two to four weeks with a knee injury, opening the door for Lindback to establish himself.
"It's a big, big opportunity for me to show the coaches --" Lindback said, searching for a word. "I just have to win games for them."
Well he certainly did on this night. The Wings outshot the Preds 37-24, including 16-4 in the third period. But the kid from Gavle stood tall.
"He's a good goalie," his countryman Zetterberg said. "He was good in Sweden. I had heard a lot of good things about him."
If Lindback pans out and he's off to an impressive start, chalk one up again to Preds GM David Poile, assistant GM Paul Fenton and the rest of the scouting staff. The frugal Preds stay competitive year in and year out and it's largely based on some of the best drafting and development in the league. Lindback? A seventh-round pick by the Preds, 207th overall in the June 2008 NHL entry draft.
The second part of that equation is great coaching. And once again this season, Barry Trotz and his staff are coaching their butts off. Consider that Nashville's prime offseason acquisition, Mathew Lombardi, has played exactly two games this season before suffering a concussion that has left him out indefinitely. There goes your No. 1 center, on a team not flush with offensive talent. Add to that No. 2 center David Legwand missing nine games with a lower body injury. He came back Wednesday night here in Detroit only to leave the game after reaggravating the same injury. Top-pair defenseman Ryan Suter has missed 11 games with an injury. Did we mention the No. 1 goalie, Rinne, is also out?
"It's been our top guys getting hurt," Trotz said after Tuesday's big win. "It's no different if Datsyuk and Zetterberg got hurt for Detroit. Those are our top guys getting hurt, especially at center ice and defense. Just getting in any kind of rhythm has been difficult."
But here they are, now 13-8-6 despite the injuries, and Wednesday night very much one of those barometer games in a tough joint at Joe Louis Arena against the top seed in the Western Conference.
"They're obviously one of the top teams in the league yet again this year and this is a tough building to come in," said Preds blueliner Shea Weber, who was solid as a rock Wednesday night and named the game's second star. "We were fortunate to get that two-goal lead and I think we did a pretty good job playing with it after that."
In the other dressing room, the Wings (17-6-3) suddenly have hit their first three-game skid (0-2-1) of the entire season after flying out of the gates. Nothing to worry about, of course, but nevertheless the first bump in the road.
"We got to find our way out of this," the captain, Lidstrom, said. "The way we're playing right now ... the other night we had a good start and fell off. Tonight we did the opposite. We don't have to have the letdowns we've had the last couple of games."
Should be a good one here on Friday night as the Montreal Canadiens make a rare visit to Joe Louis Arena, a clash of two Original Six teams off to terrific starts this season. And the Habs better be ready -- the Wings have no intention of stretching this skid to four games.