Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 4/7/12
DETROIT -- Red Wings fans will be able to get to bed on time for at least the immediate future. They don't have to wait up late Saturday to find out where they're going for the first round of the playoffs, and they know that the Wings' opponent will be Nashville. Detroit starts on the road as the fifth seed in the Western Conference after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday afternoon. The NHL will release the playoff schedule Sunday at 1 p.m. "We didn't want to lose and have a chance to go to the West Coast," said Henrik Zetterberg, who assisted on Pavel Datsyuk's game-tying goal with 46.4 seconds left in the third period. "I think the travel is huge for us, and now to get that short travel, only one hour time difference, that's good for us." The Wings all mentioned escaping the West Coast in the first round as something that could work in their favor. "It's huge," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "Now we're not going out to the West Coast. 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." Said Brad Stuart: "That (the travel) 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." There were more than a few Wings fans who felt that losing to the Blackhawks and avoiding the Predators in the first round would be the better scenario for the Wings. The Wings and Predators split the season series, 3-3, with each team winning once in the other team's building. The Wings were 1-2-1 against the San Jose Sharks, 3-1 against the Los Angeles Kings and 3-1 against the Phoenix Coyotes. The opponent won't matter much, though, if the Wings don't get their offensive woes corrected. It's been a bizarre season for them offensively. At the start of the year, they had that six-game losing streak when they only managed a goal a game. In their last six games, they have scored nine goals in regulation. The power play has been pretty miserable, too, especially when they got hit with all the injuries. The Wings ended the season ranked 22nd overall, scoring on just 16.1 percent of their chances. "We didnt score," coach Mike Babcock said. "Thats what I said to (assistant coach Jeff) Blashill today on the bench. We just hit two posts, and were leaving the zone feeling, 'Geez, it didnt go.' You just have to keep plugging away." The Wings' penalty kill has improved lately, including stopping all six Blackhawks' man-advantage opportunities. That's a good thing since the Predators have the top power play in the league, converting on 21.7 percent of their chances (with one game left). One player who should help the Wings in the penalty-kill department is Darren Helm, who has been out since he injured his left knee March 17 at San Jose. "I think hell play in Game 2 for sure," said Babcock, who also indicated that Danny Cleary would return for Game 1. Cleary missed the last two games because of recurring knee issues. As good as the Predators are, they've been even better since the trade deadline, when they acquired Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens and Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres. This came after getting defenseman Hal Gill earlier in February. "Obviously, Gill and Gaustad give them big bodies, and description guys that they have a role on the penalty kill and face-offs in particular," Babcock said. "But no one talks about (Andrei) Kostitsyn. "The best deal was for Kostitsyn. Hes a heavy body with skill and so that makes them deeper." So does Alexander Radulov, their first-round pick from the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, who returned from Russia and has made an immediate impact in eight games, with three goals and three assists. "Just another offensive weapon," Stuart said. "He's a good offensive player, he's got good skill, he's got good size and can skate and shoot -- all those things that good offensive players can do. Just another guy we've got to be aware of." The Wings have a lot to get ready for in the first round, but at least West Coast travel isn't one of those things.
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