Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville @ Phoenix

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 07: Steve Sullivan #26 of the Nashville Predators passes the puck under pressure from Lauri Korpikoski #29 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on April 7, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators kick off a four game road trip tonight at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Predators enjoyed a roaring start to their season, but are 2-3-2 since winning three straight to open the year. Similarly, the Coyotes are struggling, but have also lost several players to injury or suspension, namely Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal. Those players return tonight, though, so it should be an interesting evening. 

Puck drops at 9 PM CST on FS-TN, so follow after the jump for more. 

Nashville

Instead of me doing the preaching, I'll leave it to someone who knows better - Preds sophomore forward Colin Wilson:

We've had a cou­ple of lon­ger prac­ti­ces this week that focus on exe­cu­tion, get­ting back in the flow of things and pla­ying hard. I think those are all things that led to the last two los­ses. Like coach says, we have to get back to pla­ying Pre­da­tors hoc­key. We don't have that many all-stars, we do have a cou­ple, but like when we play the Red Wings, we have to out­muscle them and out­play them and out­work them in order to get the win.    

I've been saying it all year, so I'm sure this is a broken record - but when Nashville wins hockey games, its not because they were more talented than their opposition - its because they beat them in the little areas of hockey, which translate to the scoreboard.

In Goal


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

207

Nov 03, 1982


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Pekka Rinne 6 348 2 2 14 2.41 195 181 .928 1

Projected Lineup

These forward lines come courtesy of Seth, who attended Tuesday's practice. Matthew Lombardi, Martin Erat, and Ryan Suter did not make the road trip. If Marcel Goc is not ready to go, then I imagine Wade Belak will dress and Colin Wilson move back to center.

Forwards
Dumont - Goc - Tootoo
Sullivan (A) - O'Reilly - Hornqvist
Ward - Legwand (A) - Wilson
Kostitsyn - Spaling - Smithson
Defense
Bouillon - Weber (C)
Klein - O'Brien
Franson - Sulzer

Phoenix

Here's Five for Howling blogger and SB Nation Arizona contributor Jordan Ellel on some things the Coyotes need to do better

Coach Tippett has stressed a need for consistency and that will require some players to step up and start producing.  Wojtek Wolski, one of GM Don Maloney's deadline acquisitions from a year ago has been a healthy scratch over the past 2 games because he has been fairly invisible on the ice. Players like Wolski, Lee StempniakScottie Upshall and Radim Vrbata need to put this team on their collective backs and start getting it done in the offensive end.  Some improved play from the blue line certainly will help that cause, and there are signs that Keith Yandle is starting to pick up his play in a big way with a few goals over the past week.    

In Goal

A Vezina Trophy finalist last year, 'Bryz' is the Phoenix Coyotes' best player. The Coyotes rely on Bryzgalov more than the Predators do Rinne, and he's usually up to the task.


Ilya Bryzgalov

#30 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-3

210

Jun 22, 1980


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Ilya Bryzgalov 9 528 3 2 23 2.61 296 273 .922 0

Projected Lineup

Phoenix has struggled out of the gate to get production from their veterans such as Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, and Wojtek Wolski. Two of their best stalwarts? Former Predators Vernon Fiddler and Scottie Upshall.

Forwards
Upshall - Turris - Wolski
Whitney - Belanger - Doan (C)
Pyatt - Fiddler - Stempniak
Prucha - Hanzal - Vrbata
Defense
Yandle (A) - Morris
Aucoin - Jovanovski (A)
Lepisto - Ekman-Larsson

Key Matchup

Xt VS. Xt

Not only will they probably match up against each other, Shea Weber and Shane Doan are the captains of their respective teams. Weber will have to match the physicality and veteran ability of Doan, who has been on a slump and will no doubt be looking to reverse the trend. 

Perhaps more pertinent than that, though, is the two players' leadership abilities. The Preds and Yotes are each trending down, and in some ways its up to the captains to help turn things around.  Doan is, by all accounts, one of the best leaders in the league, and while Weber's captaincy is still new, early returns are promising. Look for Nashville and Phoenix to follow the examples of their leading men tonight, whatever those may be.

Prediction

Its not very often that the Nashville Predators come out flat two games in a row, but thats what happened last Thursday against St. Louis and Saturday against the Red Wings. Its even less often that it happens three consecutive times. Since Saturday, practices have been intensified, and Nashville probably returns Marcel Goc to the lineup. I think the Preds will get the West Coast trip off to a good start with a 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.

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