Phoenix Coyotes @ Nashville Predators Preview: Baby Steps

Is this a hockey puck I see before me? - USA TODAY Sports

Last night the Coyotes lost a heart-breaker in OT to the Minnesota Wild. What do they need to do to avoid a similar fate in Nashville?

There were a lot of things to like and dislike about last night's effort. The Coyotes finally managed to score three goals in a game and for the most part, Jason LaBarbera looked pretty good in net. The bad news was it wasn't enough as yet another late period collapse cost the Coyotes a point. With their playoff hopes all but gone, Phoenix is going to need to start a heck of a run tonight in the Music City.

Unfortunately, they will be up against another team heating up at the right time. The Nashville Predators have won three in a row and are right on the heels of San Jose and St. Louis for the last playoff spots. Their offense is clicking with guys like Martin Erat, Gabriel Bourque, and of course Shea Weber providing meaningful points, and Pekka Rinne is, well, Pekka Rinne.

We may very well be past the point where the Coyotes can realistically compete for a playoff spot, but this team is definitely capable of stringing a ton of wins together. A complete effort tonight will give the Coyotes three out of four points on this road trip and set them up for a huge clash against the San Jose Sharks Saturday night.

Five For Winning

1. Score First - This one may permanently remain in the Five For Winning section this year. As we saw last night, the Coyotes are substantially better when they have the lead. It'd be nice if they could start with it earlier.

2. Build a Bigger Lead - The Desert Dogs have had a lead in both of their previous games. Unfortunately, it's only been a one-goal lead. Because the Coyotes have been so prone to making mistakes down the stretch, if the Coyotes could give themselves an extra goal or two to cushion their lead they might be able to pull this one out.

3. Think Smart, Play Smart - In both of their previous games, a titanic mistake gave the other team a power play that either directly or indirectly produced the game winning goal. The Coyotes simply cannot afford to make stupid mistakes in their own zone.

4. Shoot, Shoot, and Shoot Some More - All three goals in last night's game were scored after multiple shots on net. It doesn't matter if its shorthanded, even-strength, or on the power play, the Coyotes have to make Pekka Rinne work hard. The more they shoot, the better they'll be.

5. Avoid the 3-Point Game - As nice as it would be to just win, the Coyotes need to leap-frog a ton of teams in the Western Conference to make the playoffs, and Nashville is one of them. They can't spot them an extra point.

Players to Watch


Rob Klinkhammer

#36 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes

6-3

214

Aug 12, 1986



G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Rob Klinkhammer 3 0 3 1 2

The coolest name on the roster is the hottest player on the roster. There's no reason the Coyotes shouldn't look to keep him going and hope the rest of the offense catches up.


Martin Erat

#10 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators

6-0

201

Aug 29, 1981



G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Martin Erat 4 16 20 -4 26

Martin Erat has been more of a distributor than a scorer for the Predators this season, but he leads the team in points. There are a lot of scrappy guys on this roster that the Coyotes need to keep track of.

Projected Starting Goaltenders


Chad Johnson

#31 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-3

205

Jun 10, 1986



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2012 - Chad Johnson 2 122 1 0 2 0.98 42 40 .952 1

With Mike Smith on IR, Chad Johnson makes his return to the NHL. The last time he was up, he shutout the Predators, and while they are better now than they were when the season started, hopefully Tres Uno still has some of that magic leftover from the first meeting.


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

209

Nov 03, 1982



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2012 - Pekka Rinne 31 1739 13 10 67 2.31 755 688 .911 5

Do the Nashville Predators even have a backup goaltender? The Predators have leaned heavily on their star goalie for years now, and this season is no different. Expect to see him in net tonight.

Injury Report

Lauri Korpikoski was a late scratch for the Coyotes last night due to an upper-body injury. There's no word if he will play tonight. Meanwhile, both Zbynek Michalek (Everything) and Mike Smith (Upper Body) remain out.

For the Predators, Scott Hannan is questionable with an upper-body injury. Both Paul Gaustad and Colin Wilson have taken their upper-body injuries to the Injured Reserve list.

Puck Drop

Because of that strange phenomenon known to the rest of the country as Daylight Savings Time, tonight's game begins at 5 PM Arizona time. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and XTRA 910 AM.

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