WCSF: Phoenix Coyotes @ Nashville Predators Game 4 Preview - Matching the Intensity

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 02: Martin Hanzal #11 of the Phoenix Coyotes and Patric Hornqvist #27 of the Nashville Predators chase the puck in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on May 2, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

If there's one thing that the Phoenix Coyotes were unable to do in game 3 (besides beat Pekka Rinne with any shots), it was match the Nashville Predators' intensity on the ice. Now, holding a 2-0 series lead over a team that is returning to home ice and has galvanized itself after two of its top six forwards were suspended probably isn't the best circumstance to match a team's drive, but it was certainly disappointing to see how little push the Coyotes were able to generate. Thankfully, Dave Tippett doesn't stand for these types of poor effort showings and the Desert Dogs usually bounce back nicely from them.

As for game 3, there wasn't much more to say than a few early bounces didn't go the Coyotes' way and from that point forward, both teams shut down the other for 50+ minutes. Despite generating some pretty decent scoring opportunities, I've yet to see Phoenix outmatched in this series and a stronger effort in game 4 with a few bounces could see the 'Yotes returning to Glendale on Monday with a chance to secure a berth in the Western Conference Finals.

Five For Winning

1. Score Early. Pekka Rinne certainly found a groove last game and the Coyotes want to bring him right back down to Earth like they did the first two games. Plus, an early goal might quiet the crowd a bit which is always nice. A goal in the first 5 minutes of this game would be big for the Coyotes.

2. Defensive Support. On both Nashville goals, a Nashville player was left wide open in the slot leading to the goal. Now, the turnovers that gift-wrapped both goals accounts for some of that, but the Coyotes need to be playing defense-first hockey as always.

3. Get the Power Play Clicking. Despite not scoring a goal on the 5-on-3 advantage, the Coyotes had a few good looks and Rinne made some good saves. But in the playoffs, special teams play can be all the difference in the world and the 'Yotes power play in this second round has not been nearly as good as it was against Chicago.

4. Bring the Pressure. The Coyotes forecheck did not look nearly as effective last game as the first two and it forced the Coyotes to chase the game in their own zone far too often.

5. Win the Dot. Since the first game of the series, the faceoffs have been pretty even with Nashville taking the advantage in both games 2 and 3. Winning faceoffs help sustain pressure and set up your offense, something that was lacking for the Coyotes in game 3.

Players to Watch

[having some issues on the SB Nation end...sorry]

Phoenix - Taylor Pyatt

Old dreamy eyes was instrumental in the Chicago series bringing good energy and putting a few pucks in the back of the net. He's looked more like his regular season self so far in this series, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but isn't exactly going to get things done right now. Coyotes could use to see him charging the net and putting some garbage goals behind Rinne.

Nashville - Andrei Kostitsyn

I'm going to assume that Barry Trotz reinserts Andrei into the lineup for this one and that the Russian reacts the way most players do after they've been benched/suspended/whatever...he's going to play like a man possessed. Considering that he's already scored a few goals in the series, this may spell trouble for the Coyotes.

Starting Goaltenders

Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne

They are both awesome...that is all.


Phoenix Coyotes Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Lauri Korpikoski undisclosed 05/03/2012

Nashville Predators Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Alexander Radulov other-excused 05/03/2012
Andrei Kostitsyn other-excused 05/03/2012

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brian McGrattan other-excused 02/05/2012

I like how SB Nation's widget lists Radulov and Kostitsyn among the "injured"...that must've been one hell of a hangover. It's an early game in Phoenix with coverage slated to start at 4:30 on NBC Sports Network. Check on back for the game day thread about an hour before puck drop. For the Nashville perspective, check out our friends at On the Forecheck.

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