The Nashville Predators will take the next stop of their first road trip of 2018 tonight in Glendale, playing the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.
Both teams will be looking for their first win of 2018, with the Coyotes playing for something extra special: their 10th win of the season.
The Arizona Coyotes
It goes without saying that this Coyotes team has not performed well. At the mid-season mark, these guys have less wins (9) than the Preds have losses (11). They are the second worst team in the league when it comes to Goals For and Goals Against per Game, and their -1.27 Goal Differential is last in the NHL.
They have talented players such as Niklas Hjalmarsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi, and Derek Stepan, but not one of those guys has found a way to produce at a level to where the team can be more successful.
In net, the team dropped long-time liability Mike Smith and picked up Anti Raanta. His SV% and GAA are right around what his career average has been, but the offense around him hasn’t played well enough for .912 save percentage and a 2.42 goals allowed average to win many games. The team also uses Scott Wedgewood in goal equally as often, despite him posting a .897 save percentage and 3.23 goals allowed average.
The Nashville Predators
Nashville has struggled to find consistency recently, going 5-4-1 in their last 10 games since their first game against the expansion Golden Knights. With top line winger Filip Forsberg out for 4-6 weeks, players will need to step up if this team wants to stick around in the Central’s extremely tight playoff race.
Thankfully, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson are very talented and capable players, as is the entire second line of Kyle Turris, Kevin Fiala, and Craig Smith. While that line probably cannot carry the team for the next month, they are very capable of beating this Arizona team on their own.
Defensively, Ryan Ellis returned on Tuesday. This allows the top 4 D pairings to return to their best pairs, which is how they were skating in practice yesterday.
P.K. Subban is practicing with Mattias Ekholm this afternoon in Arizona. Alexei Emelin is with Yannick Weber. Roman Josi remains with Ryan Ellis.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) January 3, 2018
When Ellis, Josi, Subban, and Ekholm get used to playing with their respective partners again, this team will perform a lot better in almost every aspect. The Preds well-oiled machine needs its two-way defensemen playing at the highest level, which we all hope to see soon.
Pekka Rinne will likely be in net for the boys in gold and white, and he will be looking to get his first win since the Preds 2-1 victory in St. Louis. Despite losing two straight games, his save percentage in those two games was .919 and .933, meaning that if the Preds could’ve found a way to score on a few of their chances, they probably could’ve won.
And you can expect them to score on their chances tonight.
Reasons to Watch
- To see the team score its first goal of 2018
- To (hopefully) see the team win its first game of 2018
- Yours truly will be at the game, so look for me on TV
Sights and Sounds
You know the drill. FS-TN for TV and 102.5 The Game for radio. 8:00 puck drop.