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Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville @ Phoenix

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[SB Nation] - [Five for Howling] - [NHL] - [Tennessean]

The Phoenix Coyotes take on our Nashville Predators for the final (regular season?) time this season at Jobing.com Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. The Predators and Coyotes are two of the NHL's biggest surprises, with Phoenix checking in at 4th league-wide and Nashville 8th. Fairly impressive for a couple of teams that were widely predicted to miss the postseason all together. Barry Trotz and Dave Tippett are big reasons for the turnarounds, and have to be considered candidates for coach of the year. The teams get it done almost identically- above average goaltending, good two-way play, and scoring from all four lines.  

After the jump, thoughts and lineups for tonight's game in what could be a preview of the Preds' first round series...

Ten thoughts on tonight's contest: 

  • The Predators average the least amount of penalty minutes in the league at 8.8 per game...
  • Of course, it doesn't matter as much, because Phoenix's power play is 28th in the league. The Predators have killed off 23 of their last 26 penalties taken.
  • The Predators and Coyotes hold the NHL's best record when leading after one period at 23-1-0. Nashville leads the league in winning % when trailing after two periods (10-9-2). They are also 49-16-1 in games decided by two goals or less, 13-0-1 in their last 14 one goal contests, and 2nd in the NHL with a 13-6 overtime/shootout record. 
  • Last time out against Phoenix, Adrian Aucoin was finally stopped in the skills competition and the Predators won 4-3. Last time at Jobing.com Arena, Nashville put 43 shots on net compared to Phoenix's 23. And lost. 
  • Jason Arnott, who returns from injury tonight, has 54 points in 54 career games against the 'Yotes. 
  • After Mike Green, Shea Weber has the most goals (67) by a defenseman since 2006. Awesome. 
  • Pekka Rinne has a .933 save percentage since the Olympic break, which is good for 3rd behind Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask
  • Cody Franson leads all NHL rookies in plus/minus at +15. Playing behind three well-known defensemen, Franson hasn't gotten the attention of a Tyler Myers or Zach Bogosian- but it may not be because he's not as good. 
  • Is Marcel Goc an unsung hero? I say so, but take a look for yourself.
  • The Predators could pass the Coyotes for home ice advantage in the first round. It isn't likely, but it becomes much more plausible with a regulation victory tonight.

Lineups

Nashville:

Complete with a captain!

Forwards
Wilson - Arnott (C) - Erat
Sullivan (A) - Goc - Hornqvist
Tootoo - Boyd - Dumont
Ward - Legwand - Smithson
Defense
Suter - Weber (A)
Hamhuis - Franson
Bouillon - Klein
GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pekka Rinne 56 3122 31 15 132 2.54 1478 1346 .911 7

Phoenix:

Forwards
Pyatt - Lombardi - Doan (C)
Vrbata - Hanzal - Prucha
Wolski - Fiddler - Stempniak
Nokelainen - Winnik - Korpikoski
Defense
Michalek (A) - Jovanovski (A)
Schneider - Aucoin
Ballard - Morris
GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Ilya Bryzgalov 67 3960 41 20 152 2.30 1906 1754 .920 8