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Coyotes Game 44 Preview: Coyotes host Predators in matinee matchup

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview

The Arizona Coyotes are back in action today at Mullett Arena. The Desert Dogs return home from a three-game road trip where they went 1-1-1, including a recent 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Credit to the Coyotes, they kept the game close against a very good Vancouver team. When the Canucks took a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Coyotes tied it up before the start of the first intermission. And it wasn’t til almost the end of the second until Vancouver scored the eventual game-winner. 

But there is still plenty to criticize, even if the outcome was about what you would expect. The Vancouver Canucks had five power plays during the game, which is far too many, especially when they scored on an early one. Additionally, the Coyotes’ inability to finish their chances has been frustrating to watch, although you have to credit Thatcher Demko for some fantastic goaltending. 

It should also be noted that the Coyotes were without one of their best players, Nick Schmaltz. Before the game, Head Coach André Tourigny described Schmaltz as hour-to-hour, so hopefully, he won’t miss much time and may be available today.

The Coyotes will play a team above them in the standings again today, although not by much. After playing the top team in the Pacific Division on Thursday, the Coyotes will play the fourth team in the Central, the Nashville Predators.

The Predators are 25-19-1 through 45 games this season and come into tonight’s matchup with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10. 

The Coyotes and Predators are close in the standings but very different teams. The Predators score more goals (3.09 per game versus 2.95) but give up more goals (3.09 per 2.98). Surprisingly enough, the Coyotes have the better power play (23.1% vs 20.8%) and penalty kill (79.0% vs 77.2%). 

Unfortunately, the Coyotes are much worse in a critical area: faceoffs. The Coyotes are the second-worst team when it comes to winning faceoffs, winning only 45.7% of their faceoffs. The Predators aren’t world-beaters in the circle, but their 48.4% faceoff win percentage numbers are better than the Desert Dogs.

The Coyotes lead the series against the Predators 1-0, and this is a much-win game. The Coyotes need points to stay in the playoff hunt, and they especially need points against teams they are competing against for a Wild Card spot. Arizona needs to start strong and stay out of the box, and they will have a good chance of walking away with two points.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Alex Kerfoot – Kerfoot had a primary assist on the Coyotes’ lone goal against the Canucks. In their first matchup, Kerfoot scored his first goal of the season against the Predators. 

Nashville: Roman Josi – Josie comes into today’s game riding a five-game point streak, with seven assists in his last five games. He had two assists in the first matchup between the Coyotes and Predators. 

Injuries

Arizona: Travis Boyd (pectoral), Barrett Hayton (upper body), Vladislav Kolyachonok (lower body), Nick Schmaltz (questionable, undisclosed)

Nashville: Egor Afanasyev (undisclosed), Tyson Barrie (upper body)

Puck Drop

Today’s game will be at 1:00 p.m. Arizona time at Mullett Arena and will air on Scripps.