There is no need to wonder where Patric Hornqvist and Tomas Holmstrom are going to show up when they’re on the ice.
It is how often each shows up on the scoresheet over the remainder of the Western Conference quarterfinal series between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings that might ultimately determine which team advances.
The Swedish forwards are utterly predictable in that they are going to go to the front of the net as often as they can and are going to stay there for as long as they can. With coaches for both teams consistently talking about the need for “net presence,” Nashville’s Hornqvist and Detroit’s Holmstrom loom as key figures in the series, which continues with Game 4 Tuesday at Detroit (6:30 p.m., SportSouth).
“I think both of them are unique in the fact that they really work that front of the net,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said prior to the series. “They’re great at creating a lot of traffic. They’ve got great courage — because it is not the most desirable place to be when guys are shooting the puck the way they can now. And they’re very effective."
Holmstrom, 39 and in his 15th NHL season, had a goal in the series opener and added an assist in Game 2, the Red Wings’ only victory in the first three contests. Hornqvist, 25 and in his fourth NHL season, had an assist on Gabriel Bourque’s game-winning goal in the opener and nothing since.
They are virtually the same size — each is 6-foot but Holmstrom, at 200, has 12 pounds on Hornqvist — and have the same knack for, and willingness to take up space in front of an opposing goalie.
“I know what I have to do in the series,” Hornqvist said. "He’s almost doing the same thing. So, of course, we’re similar in that way.”
The similarities are not necessarily by accident either.
“We’ve taken clips of Tomas and shown them to Patric when he was younger,” Trotz said. “Patric has taken an interest because that’s where he’s become very good. With Patric, his game has evolved to be not only that but a little further out from the goal in the last couple years.
“That has made him a more effective player.”
Hornqvist has scored more than 20 goals each of the last three seasons. With 30 in 2009-10 and 27 this season he joined Scott Walker as the only player in franchise history to lead the Predators outright in goals more than once.
Holmstrom had 20 or more four times in a span of five seasons ending in 2009-10, when he scored 25. In two previous playoff series against Nashville (2004 and 2008) he had a total of two goals and three assists.
“I know he’s good in front,” Hornqvist said. “He’s probably one of the best in front. So every time I get a chance to watch him, I’m watching him. He’s really good.
“Hopefully he’s not going to be good [in this] series.”