Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
The Nashville Predators get a chance to avenge their Western Conference Semifinal loss to the Phoenix Coyotes tonight with a game at Jobing.com Arena (8:00 pm. Central on FS-TN). At the same time, they'll find a familiar face wearing the enemy colors...
|Nashville Predators||Phoenix Coyotes|
|5-on-5 Save %||.920||16th||.866||30th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.50||24th||4.75||15th|
|# of PK's/Gm||2.75||2nd||4.75||14th|
Defense & goaltending are killing the Coyotes these days, overwhelming their reasonable possession stats.
People talk about the L.A. Kings suffering from Stanley Cup hangover, but what's up with the Coyotes, a Western Conference Final hangover? After last spring's surprising dash deep into the playoffs (which of course included a 2nd-round triumph over the Preds), Phoenix has stumbled out of the gate, with a 1-4-0 record that has them sitting last in the West. In their last outing, they
topped lost to the Kings 4-2.
We all know how Steve Sullivan made a first impression on Predators fans, notching a hat trick in his first game for Nashville. He came close to doing the same in the desert, waiting until his third game as a Coyote before potting three goals in a game last Wednesday against Columbus. Sully's hot start has him leading the Coyotes in scoring these days, a pretty nice early return on his one-year, $1.85 million contract.
The other former Predator in Phoenix is Matthew Lombardi, who signed as a free agent with Nashville, suffered a concussion in his second game for Nashville, and was traded the next summer to Toronto. The Maple Leafs then took this new CBA for a spin, sending Lombardi back to Phoenix while retaining a portion of his $3.5 million salary and cap hit. It remains to be seen if he can get back to his old self, however, as he put up just 18 points in 62 games for Toronto last season. We won't see Lombardi tonight, however, as he's out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
The big question heading into tonight's game is how the forward lines will shake out in the absence of Patric Hornqvist, who has returned to Nashville for evaluation after suffering a leg injury at Anaheim Saturday night. Just looking at who has been gaining ice time and producing lately, the likeliest candidate to step into his role might be Brandon Yip, who scored the first goal against the Ducks and has seen some time on the power play already.
If Yip does get the nod, the lines could look something like this:
|Colin Wilson||Mike Fisher||Martin Erat|
|Gabriel Bourque||David Legwand||Brandon Yip|
|Sergei Kostitsyn||Nick Spaling||Craig Smith|
|Rich Clune||Paul Gaustad||Matt Halischuk|
On defense, one interesting change saw the left side switched around a bit Saturday night, as Scott Hannan was often paired with Ryan Ellis, and Hal Gill with Kevin Klein. Hannan & Ellis appear to comfortable working together already (see Ryan's quotes after the season opener), while Klein's skating ability might make for a better complement to Gill.
Are the defensively-challenged Coyotes the answer to Nashville's ills? We'll find out tonight, so come back for the Game Thread this evening!