The Nashville Predators take on the Phoenix Coyotes tonight in yet another important Western Conference matchup. Since we last saw them, the Coyotes have put some distance between the two teams, but Nashville recently broke a losing streak and will be back on the prowl tonight. The Coyotes are eight points ahead of Nashville with 71, and the Predators could sorely use a win to put heat on the teams around them. Marcel Goc will return for the Predators, which will be a welcome tonic to their poor penalty kill.
Continue after the jump for some game analysis.
Nashville coming in
The Predators defeated the Thrashers on Saturday to end a miserable five-game losing streak. Jason Arnott finally broke his goal-scoring slump, potting the game winner in the third period off a masterful feed from Cody Franson. The special teams, however, continue to suck. And that, frankly, is putting it rather delicately. There seems to be no plan when on the power play other than repeatedly dropping it back to Franson or Shea Weber for the one-timer. While that is certainly effective, teams figure it out much too quickly. It may be fair to say that Nashville played better in a loss against Detroit than in the win against Atlanta. They need a tour de force performance in front of the home crowd tonight.
Phoenix coming in
The Coyotes are headed in a totally different direction than the Predators were as of Saturday. Winners of four straight, they are rolling through the West even without leading goal scorer Scottie Upshall, who was recently lost to an ACL tear. The credit can certainly be shared for their success, but captain Shane Doan and coach Dave Tippett have been crucial to their season. Tippett could very well be on his way to some hardware at season's end. Their special teams aren't anything to write home about, but with the Predators' being so poor it'll once again be an x-factor. Be sure and check out the excellent and underappreciated Five for Howling.
I love this kid. The pass to spring the Arnott breakaway was enough to get him in this spot, but he's been doing well defensively, too. His +/- is good for 2nd on the whole team:
|2009 - Cody Franson||42||5||11||16||11||14||1||0||2||0||70||7.1|
'Yotes captain Shane Doan was recently named the NHL's 1st star of the week:
|2009 - Shane Doan||56||17||26||43||-3||35||5||0||4||0||169||10.1|
For Nashville, David Legwand has come to a screeching halt offensively, highlighted by his failure to roof the puck into an open net against Detroit:
|2009 - David Legwand||54||10||19||29||-4||16||0||1||3||0||112||8.9|
For Phoenix, a combination of me not really knowing and the Coyotes being on such a tear is enough to leave this spot blank for now.
The Guys in Goal
Glennon reports that Pekka Rinne will get a chance to build on what was a much improved performance against Atlanta.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||35||1897||19||10||89||2.81||909||820||.902||2|
For Phoenix, the workhorse will continue to be the same.
#30 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Jun 22, 1980
|2009 - Ilya Bryzgalov||48||2814||29||14||110||2.35||1350||1240||.919||5|
For the Preds, John Glennon reports these slightly adjusted lines from yesterday's practice:
I expect Phoenix's lines to be mostly the same from our last game against them, with the exception that they will be missing Scottie Upshall:
This section hasn't been kind to me lately, but I'll attack it anyway, because after all, its a fearless prediction, right? I'm hoping for a good crowd tonight, and I think the victory against Atlanta has the chance to be a stepping stone to a good week. The Coyotes will be tough, however, so it won't be a walk in the park. Scottie Upshall was Phoenix's entire offense two weeks ago, and as mentioned will be out tonight. I'm thinking that Nashville is going to take down Phoenix, but grant them a loser point in a 4-3 win.