End of the road for Lidstrom?

Red Wings defenceman Niklas Lidstrom could be playing his last NHL games in these playoffs. (LUCY...

Red Wings defenceman Niklas Lidstrom could be playing his last NHL games in these playoffs. (LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters file photo)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:29 PM ET

The Detroit Red Wings are faced with a chilling prospect that has been largely ignored thanks to all the desperate talk coming out of the Motor City.

And, in the long run, a future without all-world defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom has to seem a whole lot scarier to the Wings than a first-round playoff exit.

It's possible Lidstrom's NHL swan song will come as early as Friday, when the Wings take on the Nashville Predators in Music City. A loss in Game 5 would give the Wings a rare early start to the summer -- the previous time they went one-and-done in the playoffs was 2006 -- and give Lidstrom, who turns 42 on April 28, plenty of time to mull retirement.

Lidstrom, though, won't let any thoughts that the end could come Friday get into his head.

"No, I don't think like that," Lidstrom said Thursday. "I think I've learned from other years. I try to push that aside and just go out and try to play a real solid game, a good game and come out with a win.

"The last couple of years have been like that. (You) take a couple weeks before you start thinking about the future."

Even though Lidstrom's personal odometer closed in on 1,600 games in 2011-12, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock isn't expecting to have to replace the seven-time Norris Trophy winner just yet.

"I've been hearing that same story for five years now," Babcock said. "I'd be shocked if he retired, but I've been shocked before."

Even without the Lidstrom retirement talk, the reality is the Wings find themselves in a pretty bleak situation. They're down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series with Game 5 in hostile territory and facing a goalie, Pekka Rinne, who has had Detroit's number during the first four playoff meetings.

In the Preds' three wins, Rinne has given up just five goals and, seemingly, gotten into the Wings' heads.

"It's not time to get too frustrated," Detroit forward Valtteri Filppula said. "We just have to keep going and battle through it. Their goalie has been playing great. A lot of credit has to be given to him. He makes it a lot more difficult.

"Shots have been coming from far away and he's able to close right away so we don't even get a rebound. We're going to have to try and get a little closer and maybe get shots he doesn't see."

Getting into Rinne's kitchen could be a little tougher if extra-long Predators defenceman Hall Gill is able to play in Game 5.

Gill, Nashville's leading shot-blocker in the regular season, missed the first four games of the series with a lower-body injury but practised fully Thursday. Preds coach Barry Trotz said the 6-foot-7 Gill will decide Friday morning if he can play.

"I just have to be able to play at a high level," Gill said. "It's not like you're jumping into an exhibition game. You have to go all out."


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