The Phoenix Coyotes end their three game road trip in Nashville tonight. The Desert Dogs have lost their first two games of the season, though they played well in their last contest against the Dallas Stars. While tonight’s game can’t be termed a "must win", starting the season 0-3 is not a recipe for success. The Yotes and Preds split their contests last season. Each team won twice (one on road, one at home). Tonight’s contest is the Predators home opener and therefore the boys from the Valley should expect a raucous Smashville crowd similar to what they experienced in San Jose last Saturday.
Nashville’s strengths once again this season are goaltending and defense. Vezina trophy candidate Pekke Rinne is expected to start in goal. Captain Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, what many including yours truly consider to be the best defensive pairing in the league, will be patrolling the blueline. They are joined by vets Jack Hillen and Kevin Klein, as well as youngsters Teemu Laasko and Jonathon Blum. The bottom 4 guys may not be household names, but all four are more than capable. The only negative for the Preds defense is Laasko and Blum's lack of NHL experience.
The Predators could be without both Martin Erat and Patrick Hornqvist this evening. Erat was placed on IR earlier today. Hornqvist was the Preds best offensive player against Phoenix last season. If he isn’t able to go it certainly should make things easier. In addition, forward Mike Fisher is out for sure. With all the injury concerns for Nashville, the Coyotes should be able to use their depth to their advantage, especially late in the contest.
Likely Starting Goaltenders
#1 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Jan 18, 1980
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
#11 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes
Feb 20, 1987
Hanzal needs to get huge frame in front of Pekka Rinne often this evening.
#18 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators
Mar 07, 1987
Bergfors will likely see decent ice time tonight. His once promising career has stalled since his time with the Devils.
Five for Winning
1. The Coyotes need to limit scoring chances for the Craig Smith, David Legwand, and Colin Wilson line. Their line has been involved in 6 of Nashville’s 7 goals so far this season.
2. The Coyotes need to score at even strength. All four of their goals so far this season have been with the man advantage.
3. Stay out of the box. Nashville's power play was excellent (42.9%) in their first two games.
4. Bodies in front. If Rinne sees the puck, he saves it.
5. The Coyotes bottom two lines need to score a goal. With the Preds likely lacking depth and/or hurting up front tonight, its a perfect opportunity for the Yotes bottom two lines to assert themselves.