Thursday’s game was very entertaining, but not the type of game the Coyotes will be able to play every night. Arizona has the second-lowest goals scored per game in the NHL, although their offense has been picking up just a little.
The Coyotes set a few season milestones in their last game against the Blackhawks. It was the first time they had a two-goal lead this season and their first three-goal lead. Arizona will need to find a way to generate more consistent offense, and Thursday’s game was a perfect illustration of how pivotal a good power play can be.
Arizona scored on two of their five power plays, and both goals were huge. Travis Boyd scored the first one midway through the game and stopped the bleeding after the Coyotes had given up two goals. And then, early in the third, Johan Larsson netted his second of the night on the man-advantage, scoring what would eventually be the game-winner.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes, the reason they dropped so many games was also very apparent in their last game. The Chicago Blackhawks had five power play opportunities of their own and managed to score on their last one. The Coyotes are the third-most penalized team in the league and have the third-worst penalty kill, so penalties often come back to bite them.
It will be interesting to see who the Coyotes decide to start in net tonight. Karel Vejmelka has gotten the last two starts, making it likely that Head Coach André Tourigny will tap Scott Wedgewood. Wedgewood last started on December 28th against the San Jose Sharks, another high-flying game that saw the Coyotes give up seven goals and fall in the shootout.
The Nashville Predators are an exciting team playing exceptionally well right now. Thanks to a three-game win streak, the Predators are at the top of the Central Division with 46 points in 35 games.
Nashville also saw some recent games postponed due to COVID-19, but not nearly as many as the Coyotes. Their schedule has been uninterrupted since 12/29, when they fell 5-3 against the Washington Capitals.
Tonight will be the final game of a three-game road trip for the Predators, who also faced the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings. The Predators managed to limit their opponents to two goals in both games, so Coyotes fans probably shouldn’t anticipate another high-scoring affair.
If there is one area the Coyotes can exploit, it’s one they know very well. The Predators are the NHL’s most penalized team right now, with 415 penalty minutes in 35 games. Their penalty kill is ranked 10th in the league, so it will still be tough to score on the power play, but they should get plenty of chances.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Phil Kessel - Kessel had two assists in the Coyotes’ last game and has seven points in his past four games. Arizona needs all the offense they can get, and Kessel’s hot streak has been a big part of what they’ve gotten so far.
Nashville: Filip Forsberg - Forsberg comes into tonight on a three-game goal streak, with four goals in his last three. He currently leads the Predators with 18 goals.
Arizona: Barrett Hayton (questionable, hand), Kyle Capobianco (COVID-19 protocol), Jay Beagle (lower body), Jakob Chychrun (upper body), Ryan Dzingel (upper body), Dmitrij Jaškin (lower body), Carter Hutton (lower body), Conor Timmins (knee)
Nashville: Dante Fabbro (COVID-19 protocol), Thomas Novak (COVID-19 protocol)
Tonight’s game will start at 6:00 pm Arizona time and will air on Bally Sports Arizona+ and 620 AM.