Will the Nashville Predators look for revenge tonight for the way Phoenix eliminated them in the Western Conference Semifinals last spring?
|Phoenix Coyotes||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Save %||.908||22nd||.944||3rd|
|# of PP's/Gm||4.00||16th||3.15||30th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.92||11th||3.85||10th|
The Coyotes have tended to play a little more of an up-and-down style of game than the Preds (you could say that about almost any NHL team, really), but their goaltending hasn't been as sharp (again, something you could say about most teams).
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The Coyotes come into tonight's game a little bit greedy, hoping to complete a sweep of their 3-game road trip. After having gotten off to a very slow start, they've found their legs lately, and have gone 5-1-2 in their last eight games. According to our SB Nation brethren it sounds like a back-to-basics approach is what turned things around:
...it's about scoring chances, not shots on goal. The Coyotes outshot the Stars 40 to 26 in the season opener and lost that game. The bigger concern is when this team doesn't play the style of hockey that Dave Tippet expects. That's what they were doing to start this season and it wasn't working. They have won four of their last five by getting back to playing the style of hockey that took them to the playoffs in each of the last three years.
The guy to watch out for tonight is their leading scorer Radim Vrbata, whose 11 points in 13 games pace the club. Steve Sullivan's return to Nashville is also a major story to follow (will he be recognized on the scoreboard) as would Matthew Lombardi's, but Lombardi is out of the lineup indefinitely with an upper body injury, as he was for almost his entire 2010-2011 season with Nashville.
For the Predators, we have a classic glass half-empty or half-full situation. While the offensive side of their game has been downright dreadful, the defense and goaltending have been been excellent. The saving grace has been Pekka Rinne, who has been off to a much better start than his 5-3-3 record would indicate (another example of why you should just laugh in the face of anyone pulling out Wins as an important goalie stat). Against Phoenix, Peks has an all-time record of 8-6-1, with a .926 save percentage, 2.18 GAA, and 4(!) shutouts.
In terms of tonight's lineup, the major question is whether Hal Gill will get back in there after being scratched Tuesday against San Jose. The defensive and penalty killing effort were outstanding in that game, which could impact his chances. As Barry Trotz said after that game, however, that decision wasn't an indictment of Gill's play - all the defensemen have been playing relatively well, and it was more about getting back to using a full assortment of 12 forwards.
Stay tuned for game-day updates, and look for the Game Thread to go live shortly before tonight's 7:00 p.m. puck drop...