The Predators travel to the desert to kick off a three game road trip tonight, looking to extend their point streak to 13 games and shake the demons of playing the Coyotes.
The Arizona Coyotes
The Yotes are now mathematically out of the playoff race as Anaheim won their game against the Canucks, but they have been playing much better in 2018.
Recently, Arizona has turned things around. In fact, if they hadn’t set a record for the longest losing streak in an NHL season to start this year, they might be closer to the playoff conversation. In the games since the Predators were last in Phoenix, the Coyotes have gone 14-7-6. They have also won their last two games played and seven of their last ten.
So what’s gone right for them recently? Well, it starts with Oliver Ekman-Larsson continuing to play at or around the level of play that got him to the All-Star game as the Coyotes’ representative. It also stems from rookie Clayton Keller finding his second wind on the season, even though March is a little late to make a Calder Trophy push. Keller has 19 goals and 31 assists in 69 games this season, and his 50 points in 2017-18 brings his career totals up to 52. ESPN projects Keller to play in all 82 games and finish with 59 points. Keller has a point in all of the Coyotes’ wins in March, but he also was held off the scoresheet during their two losses this month.
Unfortunately, a few things have gone wrong for the the Yotes recently. Goalie Antti Raanta and winger Zac Rinaldo continue to remain day-to-day with a lower and upper-body injury, respectively. Laurent Dauphin is out definitely, and at this point it would not be surprising to see the Coyotes shut him down for the rest of the season. The worst news for the Coyotes came when their head coach, Rick Tocchet, stepped away from the team temporarily to deal with a family illness. Hopefully everything improves quickly and he can return to his spot on the bench, but assistant coach John MacLean will take over the coaching duties until then.
The Nashville Predators
The Preds have had a lot go right for them recently. They won 10 straight, then took the Devils to shootout to ensure the point streak would remain alive, and finally they dominated division opponent and holders of second in the Central Winnipeg on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Nashville, forward Calle Jarnkrok left Bridgestone Arena in a sling on Tuesday and it was announced today that he will miss the remainder of the regular season.
Nashville still has depth, thankfully. Tonight’s forward lines are projected to look like this, according to Thomas Willis:
This means that Mike Fisher will be watching from the box tonight. Defensively, expect the Four Horsemen to all play, and expect Rinne in net tonight with Saros going tomorrow.
The Preds have a chance tonight to not only officially clinch a playoff spot, but they can also remain a few steps ahead in both the home-ice and Presidents’ Trophy races.
Reasons to Watch
- Look, I know it’s late, but I’ll be at the game again, and I may not be on TV during play (see below), but you can always look for me during the commercial break cuts
- March Madness games are over for the day. What better way to celebrate your team moving on or get over their loss than watching the Preds?
Game of Thrones Equivalent
The Preds don’t really want to kill the Yotes, but it is something they have to do to keep a leg up in the playoff races and finally end their recent woes against Arizona, so this scene makes sense. [WARNING: IT’S ANOTHER VIOLENT SCENE]