It's January, and the Arizona Coyotes are still in prime playoff position in the Pacific Division. They will get the chance to pad that spot when they start a season long seven game homestand tonight against the Nashville Predators.
Matchup at a Glance
|Nashville Predators||Arizona Coyotes|
|Points||45 (5th Central)||44 (2nd Pacific)|
|Goals For||2.56 (T-17th)||2.80 (7th)|
|Goals Against||2.68 (T-18th)||3.10 (29th)|
|Power Play||20.0% (8th)||17.6% (23rd)|
|Penalty Kill||75.8% (29th)||78.3% (24th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||54.1% (2nd)||46.9% (T-27th)|
|PDO||98.9 (24th)||101.5 (5th)|
View from Nashville
For the Nashville perspective, check out On the Forecheck
For years, a lack of center depth has been a major impediment for Nashville's Stanley Cup chances. This week, they finally did something about it by trading Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Ryan Johansen. He scored his first goal with the Predators on his first shot with the Predators last night against the Avalanche.
But the Preds' issues go beyond their depth down the middle. Pekka Rinne has been decidedly average, with a .906 save percentage and a 2.48 GAA. His battery mate Carter Hutton is not much better. For a team with the second best Corsi stats in the league after Los Angeles, deficient goaltending is a killer.
View from Arizona
Were the Coyotes in the Central Division, Arizona would be behind both Nashville and the Colorado Avalanche for the final playoff spot (the Central's last place team - the Winnipeg Jets - would actually beat Anaheim for the final playoff spot in the Pacific based on win percentage). But the weakness of the division has allowed the Coyotes to beat the odds.
Perhaps more importantly, the Coyotes are winning low-scoring games. They are getting timely scoring from players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Shane Doan, while Louis Domingue has been an absolute revelation in goal. Arizona has allowed eight goals during their four game point streak, which is a full goal below their season average.
Keys to the Game
- Shots From Everywhere - The Coyotes brought it to the Flames early on in their Thursday contest, and it put Calgary on the defensive. That's what Arizona needs to do consistently.
- Exploit Depth Matchups - With Jones' departure, Nashville's blue-line will need to re-adjust. With the last change, Dave Tippett needs to put the best possible combinations on the ice when Shea Weber and Roman Josi aren't playing.
- Stop Giving Up Power Play Goals - Obviously easier said than done, but the Coyotes still are struggling to keep opposing special teams off the score-sheet. Nashville can do some damage on the power play, so the fewer chances they get, the better.
Players to Watch
Half of Nashville's top six scorers are defensemen, which underscores the need for Ryan Johansen. Johansen will supplement Filip Forsberg, who has 11 goals and 16 assists, in the top six.
Louis Domingue has a .930 save percentage this season. He has stopped 133 of 141 shots (.943) in his last four games.
The only injury of note for the Predators is Gabriel Bourque, who has been on IR since the end of November with an undisclosed injury.
Arizona is still missing Joe Vitale with concussion issues, while Mike Smith is not expected back until late February. Zbynek Michalek is still considered questionable for tonight.
Tonight's game gets underway at 7 PM in Glendale. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.