Viktor Arvidsson might be about the size of a spark plug, but this season, no Nashville Predators player has been as adept at starting heavy machinery.
In a breakout season, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound left winger has morphed from interesting third-liner to joining center Ryan Johansen and right winger Filip Forsberg on a first line that is steadily exhibiting the chemistry to carve up any opponent.
That line will be the Detroit Red Wings' problem Saturday night in Bridgestone Arena, where Nashville welcomes its former Central Division rival to town in the second of a three-game homestand.
Arvidsson's imprint was all over Thursday night's 2-0 blanking of Edmonton. He started the scoring in the second period with a blistering slap shot over the right shoulder of goalie Cam Talbot at 1:26, then fed Johansen for the second goal at 19:21 of the second.
In 49 games -- he missed two last month because of injury -- Arvidsson has 13 goals and 19 assists, putting him third on the team in scoring behind Johansen and Forsberg. His plus-14 rating is bettered on the team only by defenseman Matt Irwin's plus-17.
Coach Peter Laviolette wasn't shy after the win when asked about the difference in the first line.
"It's the fact that Arvy has evolved into the player that he is," Laviolette said. "His speed, his tenacity, his ability to get his shot off -- as in his goal. They are getting time to find chemistry over time."
Arvidsson's steady effort and production is one reason that Nashville (25-18-8) is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games and has picked up points in six straight home games. The Predators enter this one three points ahead of St. Louis for third place in the Central Division and nine points behind Chicago for second place.
Meanwhile, Detroit (21-21-9) has work to do if it is going to extend its playoff streak to 26 consecutive seasons. Even after a 5-4 win Friday night over the New York Islanders in Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings are seven points out of the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot and would have to jump over six teams to get there.
Outshot 36-24 by by the Islanders, the Red Wings prevailed when Danny DeKeyser's point shot caromed off two Islanders defenders and past goalie Thomas Griess at 19:32.
"We obviously got a bounce on that one," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. "I thought our compete level was really good. I thought our energy was really good. We've got to be a little tighter, but this has been a resilient bunch, that's for sure."
The Red Wings got a goal and an assist each from Henrik Zetterberg and Anthony Mantha, plus two assists from Tomas Tatar and 32 saves from Petr Mrazek. But they lost Frans Nielsen after the second period to an upper-body injury and his status for Saturday night won't be known until hours before puck drop.
Detroit has won five straight meetings in the last three seasons against Nashville, including a 5-3 decision on Oct. 21 at home in a game where the Predators lost multiple skaters as the evening progressed due to food poisoning.