The Nashville Predators head back (slightly) east to take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight—the last stop on this road trip that’s been an improvement so far on the first few games of the new year. It’s a meeting between teams at opposite ends of the Central Division, as the Coyotes have gone 7-22-3 this season.
The Nashville Predators
Closing out games hasn’t been the Preds’ strongest point lately, but they’ve been doing good things they can build on, and doing them against good teams. They struggled against the Kings on Thursday, helped out by outstanding play from Juuse Saros and shaky play from Jonathan Quick, but every team has off nights, and Saros giving them a chance to win in spite of that shouldn’t be ignored either.
Tanner Jeannot has shouldered his way into the Calder conversation (though not, I think, into actual Calder contention—I think he’ll get some votes, but I seriously doubt he’ll be a finalist, let alone win). Filip Forsberg now has 18 goals in 26 games. Roman Josi, with 32 points, and Mikael Granlund, with 31, are both still hovering just under a point per game. Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen have been contributing.
The Preds are playing some fun hockey, and it’s great to see.
The Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes are having a bad year. They’re okay-ish defensively at even strength, but they’ve had both poor offense and bad luck converting on their chances. They take a lot of penalties but struggle to kill them off or convert on the power play—unsurprising, given that their PK defense and their PP offense are both salient weak points.
At even strength, they’ve gotten average-ish goaltending from Karel Vejmelka—a name some of you might remember from Eric’s prospect reports, back when he was in the Preds’ system—but below-average goaltending from Scott Wedgewood; at all situations, that goaltending situation gets worse for both goalies. Vejmelka sports a .906 sv% on the season, while Wedgewood has a .897.
Clayton Keller leads the team in points with 25 and goals with 11. Phil Kessel and Shayne Gostisbehere are tied for second in points with 23, while Kessel has the assists lead with 18. Lawson Crouse and Travis Boyd have eight goals each; no other player has more than Gostisbehere’s six.
The Coyotes’ last game was a 6-4 win against the Chicago Blackhawks, so they’re likely looking to build on that—if not for this season’s standings, then for team culture and the future. They’re perfectly capable of winning games and the Preds should not get cocky about this one.
How to Watch
The game starts at 7 PM Central and will air on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.