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Predators Game Day: Nashville @ Phoenix

03-14_mediumCoyotes blog: Five for Howling

With captain Jason Arnott likely out for this game with a dreaded "upper body injury", the Predators begin a pivotal four-game western road trip tonight in Phoenix.

Questions to be answered: (1) Who will carry the offensive load? David Legwand has been picking up extra ice time, but it may be the defensive leaders like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter who step up in Arnott's absence. (2) With Pekka Rinne expected to return to the Nashville net, will he resume his stellar play from February? (3) Does the coaching staff seriously plan on going with a center lineup of Legwand, Vern Fiddler, Jerred Smithson, and Scott Nichol? If so, I guess the plan is to try and win 1-0.

Predators coming in: After a hot streak, the Preds have dropped three straight, and the offensive surge of a couple weeks ago seems like a distant memory. The good news is that the team is still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase.

Coyotes coming in: While having made a strong push for a long-awaited playoff spot this season, Phoenix fell out of the hunt losing 6 straight coming out of the All-Star break, and they've gone 1-6-1 over their last 8 games.

Predators to watch: Shea Weber seems to have recovered from nagging injuries, and is asserting himself offensively again, with 4 goals and 5 assists in his last 9 games.

Coyotes to watch: Phoenix captain Shane Doan is a credit to the team and would be valued on any roster. A model of consistency, even as the team has faltered he can still be counted on to bring a solid effort. He's got two goals and an assist in his last 3 games.

Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:

Nashville Phoenix
 Record 33-30-5 20th 28-34-6 26th
 Pts % .522 20th .456 26th
 Goals For/Game 2.48 27th 2.44 29th
 Goals Against/Game 2.74 11th 3.06 25th
 5-on-5 GF/GA 0.93 18th 0.80 28th
 PP% 14.1 29th 14.4 27th
 PK% 84.7 3rd 77.4 26th
 Shots/Game 29.1 19th 28.2 26th
 Shots Against/Game 29.5 13th 31.9 24th
 FO % 52.7 3rd 44.2 30th

Yikes, that's just a bad, bad hockey team right there.

And finally, a look at who draws the penalties, and who takes them for each team (data as of March 9):

 Nashville Penalties Drawn Phoenix Penalties Drawn
 Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-  Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-
 Jordin Tootoo 45 40 +5  Martin Hanzel 32 15 +17
 Martin Erat 22 24 -2  Ed Jovanovski 23 31 -8
 Ryan Jones 22 9 +13  Todd Fedoruk 21 23 -2
 Dan Hamhuis 21 23 -2  Shane Doan 18 17 +1
 Joel Ward 20 10 +10  Kyle Turris 17 7 +10
 Vern Fiddler 20 7 +13  Mikkel Boedker 17 8 +9
Penalties Taken Penalties Taken
 Jordin Tootoo 45 40 +5  Ed Jovanovski 23 31 -8
 Ryan Suter 16 33 -17  Todd Fedoruk 21 23 -2
 Shea Weber 14 32 -18  Shane Doan 18 17 +1
 Martin Erat 22 24 -2  Martin Hanzel 32 15 +17
 Greg de Vries 11 24 -13  Matt Lombardi 16 14 2
 Dan Hamhuis 21 23 -2  Keith Yandle 15 14 1