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Coyotes face suddenly struggling Predators

The Arizona Coyotes are catching the Nashville Predators at a good time.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes will take every edge they can get when they are struggling as much as they are. Nashville's recent woes will give them the perfect opportunity to get another two points at home.

Matchup at a Glance

Nashville Predators Arizona Coyotes
Points 89 (1st Central 49 (6th Pacific)
Goals For 2.85 (T-8th) 2.08 (29th)
Goals Against 2.39 (5th) 3.29 (T-28th)
Power Play 16.5% (24th) 21.0% (6th)
Penalty Kill 81.7% (T-13th) 77.9% (27th)
5v5 SAT 52.7% (T-5th) 49.0% (22nd)
SpSV% 100.6 (12th) 96.8 (30th)

View from Nashville

All is not well in Smashville. The Preds have lost six games in a row, conceding 22 goals in that span. As a result, what was a reasonably good position for top seed in the Central Division has turned into an all-out, drag-out fight with Chicago and St. Louis for division supremacy.

Nashville's success this season is due to a balance of good offense, good defense, and good goaltending. Former Coyote Mike Ribeiro leads the team in points with 54 (13 goals, 41 assists), while Filip Forsberg is the apparent front-runner for this year's Calder Trophy with 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists). Shea Weber is as dangerous as ever, as is Ryan Suter's replacement, Roman Josi. And, of course, a team backstopped by Pekka Rinne always has a chance to win.

View from Arizona

Were it not for a goalie by the name of Carey Price, Saturday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens may have ended very differently. Arizona had stout defense and turned the heat up in the third period, doubling up the Habs in shot attempts. It was not quite good enough to beat Price though, as Arizona lost 2-0.

The team's shift to speed is starting to become noticeable. John Moore is a surprisingly good skater, and has received time on the power play as a reward. He could become a real scoring threat with the man advantage should he improve his decision making and passing ability. He is just one of many Coyotes who will have a lot of growing to do over the next six months.

Keys to the Game

  • Zone Entries - The Coyotes really miss Keith Yandle's zone entry proficiency, especially on the power play. They have to continue carrying the puck in as opposed to resorting to the dump-and-chase and they need to generate more creative looks in the neutral zone.
  • Slot Coverage - With the exception of the Lars Eller goal, the Coyotes did a great job limiting the number of good looks at the puck in front of the crease against Montral. A similar kind of solid defensive play will give the Coyotes a great chance to win games going forward.
  • Top Line Matchups - Arizona did a pretty good job matching Montreal's best line stride for stride. Nashville is another team with a good top three, so the Coyotes will need to defend them well.

Who's Hot

For the Predators, Craig Smith has a goal and three assists in his last five games. He's been a pleasant surprise after a somewhat disappointing sophomore season for the Predators.

Arizona's Mike Smith has posted a .931 save percentage or better in each of the three games on this homestand. Unfortunately, he's only 1-2-0 in those games.

Injury Report

Eric Nystrom is not expected back in the lineup until later in March, while Anton Volchenkov is close to returning from injured reserve. He may not be available tonight though.

Arizona will continue without Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker for the rest of the season.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. The game will be on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and on the radio at ESPN 620 AM.