Predators @ Coyotes preview: Desert Duel

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: Mike Fisher #12 of the Nashville Predators skates with the puck against Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Phoenix Coyotes during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on November 3, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Predators defeated the Coyotes 3-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators start off their western road swing tonight in Phoenix (9:00 p.m. Central on FS-TN). The Coyotes are holding on to 7th place in the Western Conference, but have a number of teams nipping at their heels, so the Preds can expect a determined effort tonight from their hosts.

Follow after the jump for the breakdown!

Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (40-21-7) at Phoenix (34-25-10)
NSH Offense vs. PHX Defense PHX Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH Offense 2.5 (9th) 26.7 (28th) 9.2 (3rd) 2.3 (9th) 30.8 (26th) 926 (4th) NSH Defense
PHX Defense 2.2 (6th) 30.4 (24th) 927 (3rd) 2.4 (13th) 29.9 (10th) 8.1 (17th) PHX Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
NSH PP vs. PHX PK PHX PP vs. NSH PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH 5-on-4 7.5 (1st) 47.7 (19th) 15.7 (2nd) 6.5 (20th) 53.9 (25th) 880 (14th) NSH 4-on-5
PHX 4-on-5 5.1 (7th) 55.3 (29th) 908 (4th) 4.1 (30th) 39.5 (30th) 10.4 (24th) PHX 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

The major opportunity for Nashville here is on special teams - their power play has been one of the NHL's most productive, while Phoenix has struggled all season with the man advantage (they haven't scored a PP goal in their last 5 games, either).

So far this season, Nashville is 1-2-0 against the Coyotes, but the lone win came in a 3-0 game at Phoenix back in November, so the cavernous void that is Jobing.com Arena doesn't seem to intimidate the Predators.

Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes have gone streaking lately, posting an 11-0-1 stretch followed up with a 5-game losing streak, which ended Saturday night with a 3-0 win over San Jose. Their formula for success is not unlike Nashville's; a scoring-by-committee approach in front of some stingy goaltending, organized under the watchful eye of one of the NHL's most respected head coaches in Dave Tippett.

The man leading the way? He's just your typical 39-year-old enjoying a rejuvenation in his offensive numbers:


Ray Whitney

#13 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes

5-10

180

May 08, 1972



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Ray Whitney 69 21 40 61 21 24 6 0 1 151 13.9

For the opposing perspective on this matchup, head over to Five For Howling.


Phoenix Coyotes Last 5 Games

San Jose Sat 03/10 W 3 - 0
Minnesota Thu 03/08 SO - L 2 - 3
@ Columbus Tue 03/06 L 2 - 3
@ Pittsburgh Mon 03/05 L 1 - 2
Columbus Sat 03/03 L 2 - 5

Nashville Predators

The Preds seem to be firmly on track for the #4 or #5 seed in the Western Conference, and right now SportsClubStats gives a 79.9% chance that they'll face Detroit in the first round. Even though it's growing increasingly unlikely that the Predators would face a team like Phoenix in the playoffs, they'll want to get into that playoff mentality with strong, focused efforts. Certainly for the number of guys who are in danger of being scratched from game to game, there's increased pressure to impress the coaching staff each and every night.

As for how the lineup gets shuffled tonight, we'll stay tuned for news coming out of the morning skate. There's been no indication that Kevin Klein's ready to return, so there will be one other defenseman scratched, while the competition at forward is a little more wide-open.

Despite not playing much against Phoenix over the years due to his playing in the Eastern Conference, Mike Fisher has enjoyed some great success against the Coyotes, with 12 points (5G, 7A) in 11 career games against them:


Mike Fisher

#12 / Center / Nashville Predators

6-1

208

Jun 05, 1980



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Mike Fisher 59 20 21 41 +11 31 5 0 6 133 15.0

Make sure to join us for a relatively late-night game thread; it'll serve as your warm-up for the really late games coming up!

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