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Arizona Coyotes kick off five game road trip with game against Nashville Predators

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The Arizona Coyotes visit the Predators for the first time this season.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With three straight home wins under their belts, the Arizona Coyotes now travel back east for the first of five games. Tonight they take on the Nashville Predators.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes Nashville Predators
Points 27 (3rd Pacific) 28 (4th Central)
Goals For 2.83 (T-9th) 2.48 (T-18th)
Goals Against 2.83 (T-22nd) 2.57 (14th)
Power Play 14.9% (28th) 17.7% (21st)
Penalty Kill 81.1% (T-11th) 77.8% (23rd)
5v5 Corsi For 47.5% (26th) 53.8% (3rd)
PDO 101.9 (5th) 99.8 (17th)

View from Arizona

Arizona enters into tonight's game even in goal differential, which all things considered is an apt description of their season thus far. The offense has been surprisingly good, the defense has been underwhelming, and the goaltending has been a mix of hot and cold.

The Coyotes scored ten goals in their three wins against Anaheim, Calgary, and Ottawa. Yet only one of those goals came on the power play. The marked improvement of the team's 5v5 scoring will be critically important if the Coyotes want to stay in the playoff picture.

With Dustin Jeffrey's goal versus Ottawa, Boyd Gordon and John Scott are the only players currently on the Coyotes roster who have yet to score this season. Arizona is getting offensive contributions throughout its lineup, which is equally encouraging.

View from Nashville

Check out On the Forecheck for comprehensive Predators coverage

Two houses, alike in dignity, each looking for a wayward star to light their way. Or at least center their top line.

For a variety of reason, the Nashville Predators and the Arizona Coyotes have been kindred spirits over the years: offensively challenged, defensively solid, and making their way in a Southern market dominated by other sports.

Though the Coyotes have started to move towards a more dynamic offensive attack, the Predators are still searching for scoring. James Neal leads the team with nine goals, but the next closest is Shea Weber with six.

Still, on defense the Predators have a fearsome collection of quality d-men, from the aforementioned Weber to Seth Jones to Roman Josi. And though Pekka Rinne's .911 save percentage is a bit below his usual pace, he remains a stalwart between the pipes for the Preds.

Keys to the Game

  • Quick Starts - Arizona scored within the opening minute of both the first and second period of their last game. That's the kind of start that gives the team an extra jump and allows them to dictate the pace early.
  • Fewer Trips to the Box - While the Coyotes scored ten goals in three games, they also took fourteen trips to the penalty box in that stretch. There's no easier way to give away games than to spot the opposing team free scoring chances.
  • Challenge the Middle - Nashville has talented centers, but small ones. Arizona can really limit scoring chances on their end and maximize scoring chances in Nashville's end by attacking the middle and forcing Predators' forwards away from the puck.

Players to Watch

The Killer Ds are making life miserable for opposing defensemen. Anthony Duclair has a goal and two assists in his last five, while Max Domi has four helpers in the same stretch. The more attention they command, the easier it is for others to score.

It's been a slog for former Coyote Mike Ribeiro; he has only one assist in his last six games, and just two goals all season. Even at 35 though, Ribeiro remains a highly effective passer, especially on the power play.

Injury Report

Steve Downie and Joe Vitale remain on injured reserve for the Coyotes, while Shane Doan is considered questionable for tonight's game. Zbynek Michalek is believed to be probable for tonight.

Paul Gaustad, Gabriel Bourque, and Miikka Salomaki are all listed on injured reserve for Nashville. Backup goaltender Carter Hutton is questionable for tonight's game.

Puck Drop

The opening faceoff is at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN 620 AM.