GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 29: Antoine Vermette #50 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates after scoring a first period goal against the Nashville Predators in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 29, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Tomorrow the Phoenix Coyotes are going to be in a familiar scenario, a Game 5 at home with the chance to advance to the next round with a victory. Last time they were playing the Chicago Blackhawks and they were unable to capitalize, this time it is going to be against the Nashville Predators, who have yet to win in Phoenix during this series. Facing elimination you have to believe that the Predators are going to come out with there best effort to stay in, no team wants to get sent home. The big difference between this series and the last one is that so far the Coyotes have been better at home against Nashville, winning the first two games, whereas Chicago had a good road team which was able to split the opening two. Its definitely not going to be an easy game to win though, I doubt it will a high scoring game like Game 1 or 2, but who really knows anymore what this series is going to produce.
We all know the story now so it doesn't really need to be retold but it is likely that Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will be returning to the Predators lineup for Game 5. I say likely only because it hasn't been officially confirmed by Coach Trotz. I would be extremely surprised if they were sat again, especially Kostitsyn who played extremely well against the Coyotes his first two games with 2 goals. If these players do return their play may be the difference maker, they could bring their A Game hoping to make up for their transgressions, or they could play like crap to spite the team that suspended them for two games.
The Coyotes lineup isn't exactly set either though, Rostislav Klesla could possibly be suspended from Game 5 for boarding Matt Halischuk. As of my writing this there has been no official news on this, some estimate that the decision may not be given until tomorrow morning. Klesla is a very important piece of the puzzle for the Coyotes, he has been great on the defense and he is assisting in the offence with 6 points in the playoffs, all while taking a lot of damage to his face.
Update: Rusty Klesla has been suspended for 1 game. Klesla's presence will be missed, but hopefully the Coyotes will be able to pull through. The Yotes do have some experience playing without him though, he played limited minutes after getting hit in the face with a puck during Game 2, and Game 6 against the Blackhawks after getting hit in the face with a stick.
Five For Winning
1. Score First. Pop quiz for everyone: How many games in this series were won by the team who didn't score the first goal? Answer: Zero. The team that scores first is going to dictate the game, once a team gets the lead the play is going to get more defensive and its going to be harder for the other team to come back.
2. Win Faceoffs. During this series we have seen how important faceoffs are, games have been won off a winning faceoff, leads have been maintained. The Coyotes have been pretty strong in this area for most of the series, they just need to keep doing what they have been doing.
3. Special Teams. The first goal scored in this series was a power play goal, and while the Yotes power play hasn't found its way onto the board much in this series they have definitely looked good at times. If this game is as close as people think it is going to be a power play goal could be the difference maker. That being said the penalty kill unit needs to be in top form to keep the Predators from getting anything.
4. Match Their Intensity. Like I said earlier the Predators are likely to come out strong, they are facing being eliminated and most teams don't like to go quietly. The Yotes need to match everything that they throw at them and play like they need to win, not like they want to win.
5. Play Physical. The Coyotes have played most of their games as the more physical team and it has really worked in their favor. It wears their opponents down and I'm sure it frustrates them too get checked hard. You can probably credit Game 4's win to physical play, Shane Doan knocked Hall Gill off the puck which lead to the goal. That being said make sure it stays clean, we don't want to give them any power plays and we don't want anyone facing suspensions.
Players To Watch
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Coyotes: Antoine Vermette. Vermette is really playing the best hockey of the season in the playoffs, he's been scoring big goals, he's been great in the faceoff, and perhaps most importantly he has been playing like that consistently. Smith may be the MVP for the Coyotes but Vermette is starting to steal some of that spotlight, and I think he is going to be strong in this game.
Predators: Andrei Kostitsyn. I think that Kostitsyn is going to come out and play great hockey like he did in his first two games and really show the Predators organization that they made a big mistake in sitting him for Game 4. He has all the motivation to be great in this game, it will make himself look good, it will benefit his team who he probably feels like he let down, and it will make the coach who sat him look like an idiot. And who doesn't like to make the guy who benches you look like an idiot.
Likely Starting Goalies
Coyotes: Mike Smith.
Predators: Pekka Rinne.
If you asked why for either of these you aren't paying attention.
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
Nashville Predators Injuries
Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|