DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings led the NHL in points for the third time in four seasons and the sixth time since 1995.
No other team has won the President's Trophy more than twice since the league started recognizing the accomplishment a little more than two decades ago.
But the Red Wings are well aware the hardware doesn't guarantee anything other than home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
They lost to eighth-seeded Edmonton in the first round two years ago and have followed up a President's Trophy with a Stanley Cup only once.
"We've had good regular seasons and that hasn't meant anything at all for us in the first round," Kris Draper - a Red Wing since 1993 - said yesterday. "We're playing a team that battled to get into the playoffs and they had to get ready every game. They were in a totally different situation than we were."
That team is the Nashville Predators, who hope the pressure-packed games to get into the playoffs and a five-day break will help them in Game 1 tonight at Joe Louis Arena.
The Predators went 5-0-1 to secure the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
"I think we needed a little bit of time away from the rink," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We had a bunch of guys playing banged up, injured, fatigued and mentally there was a lot of strain the last two months of pushing.
"I think we're ready now to go to Detroit. Another day would be too much. I think the timing is real perfect for us."
Nashville hopes Dan Ellis' time is now. The 27-year-old goalie is expected to make his playoff debut in a storied venue against one of the elite franchises
"You can't tiptoe your way into the series," Ellis said. "They're a team that can do some damage if you're not prepared."
To have a shot at upsetting the Red Wings in the seven-game series, Nashville likely needs him to be sensational.
He was just that last month when he set a franchise record with a 233:38 shutout stretch and made 147 straight stops - the NHL's longest streak this season - and finished with a league-high .924 save percentage.
"He's a great story," Trotz said. "He fits the mold of a Nashville Predator. Other teams have given up on him. He's come in here, thrown a job and he's taken full advantage of it."
The Red Wings will be relying on Dominik Hasek and his 115 games of playoff experience.
After successfully rotating Hasek and Chris Osgood, who helped Detroit give up the fewest goals this season, Babcock plans to stick exclusively with the Dominator.
Rangers 4, Devils 1
NEWARK, N.J. - Former Devil Scott Gomez assisted on three of the Rangers' goals in a playoff opener. Ryan Callahan surprised Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with a goal-scoring swoop around the net in the third period, and the Rangers grabbed home-ice advantage.
Penguins 4, Senators 0
PITTSBURGH - Gary Roberts and Petr Sykora scored in the first period and the Penguins rode Marc-Andre Fleury's goaltending after that.
Avalanche 3, Wild 2
ST. PAUL - Colorado's Joe Sakic tipped in a shot by Ruslan Salei from the point with 8:49 remaining in overtime, his eighth career playoff goal in extra time.
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