After suffering their first regulation loss at home of the season Saturday night, the Coyotes head out to take on a pair of Central Division opponents. First up tonight is the Nashville Predators.
Teams At a Glance
|Phoenix Coyotes||Nashville Predators|
|Points||32 (4th Pacific)||24 (6th Central)|
|Goals Per Game||3.22 (4th)||2.26 (24th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||3.13 (25th)||2.83 (19th)|
|Power Play Percentage||21.7% (8th)||21.0% (10th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||76.1% (28th)||83.3% (13th)|
Very few people predicted that this team would be in the position they are now, but even fewer predicted that their Achilles' heel would actually be their defense. Injuries certainly haven't helped, but the Coyotes' problems on the backcheck go deeper than a couple of missing players.
You have to go back to November 12th against St. Louis to find a game where the Coyotes gave up less than three goals, and you have to go all the way back to October 29th to find a game where they gave up fewer than two. Poor backchecking, inopportune pinching, and a dreadful penalty kill are absolutely devastating the Coyotes right now. Hopefully the losses to Colorado and Anaheim remind the Desert Dogs that they aren't invincible.
The Preds have been treading water since losing Pekka Rinne to a leg infection. Unfortunately for them, treading water is not good enough in the Western Conference. They currently sit ten points back of 4th place Minnesota in the Central Division, and would need to leapfrog Phoenix in the standings to even secure a 5th place Wild Card slot.
As the season goes on, however, it's very clear that the Predators lucked out big time in drafting Seth Jones. The American defenseman has been an excellent pickup for the team, providing some balance on the blueline apart from Shea Weber. He has the potential to make Nashville a very good defensive team for a very long time.
For more on the Nashville Predators, check out the great folks at On the Forecheck.
Keys to the Game
- Stop Giving Up Goals. So easy right? But in all seriousness, Nashville's offensive production is in the bottom third of the league. The Coyotes defense needs to play a good game and not get into a shootout with a team that shouldn't be scoring much at all.
- Stop Taking Penalties. The penalty kill has free-falled into the basement of the NHL. Shea Weber is an absolute demon on the power play, so the easiest way to keep him from getting power play goals is to not give him power play opportunities
- Keep Outshooting the Other Team. Paradoxically, the Coyotes last two losses were games in which they outshot their opponents by substantial margins. That trend is actually one the Coyotes should want to continue.
Players to Watch
|2013 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson||4||13||17||11||12|
Ekman-Larsson, and by the extension the entire defensive corps, had a pretty rough game against Anaheim. This would be a great time for them to redeem themselves by playing some shutdown hockey.
|2013 - Matt Cullen||4||6||10||-4||12|
A very under the radar free agent signing IMO, Matt Cullen has been a nice pickup down the center for Nashville this season. And with two goals and four assists in his last four games, is on a bit of a hot streak.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Mike Smith||19||1107||12||3||53||2.87||637||584||.917||0|
Mike Smith did not finish Saturday night's game versus Anaheim; he was pulled during the 2nd intermission. But because I believe this was more to send a message to the rest of the team than it was about his performance, I would expect to see him again tonight.
|2013 - Marek Mazanec||7||388||3||3||15||2.32||210||195||.929||1|
Without the goaltending stability that Pekka Rinne brings to the lineup, Nashville has been forced to improvise with two relatively unknown backups. Recently, Marek Mazanec has been the hot hand, so expect to see him in net tonight.
The Coyotes' Zbynek Michalek (lower body) and Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) did not make the trip with the team, so neither will be playing tonight. David Schlemko (lower body) and Martin Hanzal (lower body) are listed as questionable for tonight.
In addition to Rinne (leg infection), the Predators may not have Patric Hornqvist (lower body) or Fillip Forsberg (upper body), as both are listed as questionable.
Tonight's game begins at 6 PM Arizona time. You can catch the game on KTVK or on KMVP 860 AM.