Preview 12: Predators seek retribution in Phoenix
Nashville Predators 5-4-2
Phoenix Coyotes 6-3-2
The Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes square off for the first time since Nashville’s disappointing home opener when the Predators lost 5-2 at the hands of the desert dogs on October 13th.
Nashville is coming off of a 5-4 overtime loss to Chicago on Monday. While it was unfortunate to lose given that the Predators held a lead three times in the game, to get a point in Chicago on the road with an injury filled lineup was not the worst way to start a five-game road trip.
Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn and Nick Spaling were all out of the lineup on Monday. However, Fisher and Kostitsyn practiced with the team on Wednesday and made the trip out West. Fisher has been cleared to play Thursday night in Phoenix after getting hit by Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin on Saturday night. The offensive boost of Fisher and potentially Kostitsyn to the lineup will make Nashville’s offense the most complete it has been all season.
Phoenix played Wednesday night in Colorado, beating the Avalanche 4-1. Mike Smith made 39 saves and was awarded the second star of the night by NHL.com.
The Predators have a losing record of 9-13-2 all-time against Phoenix on the road in Glendale, Arizona.
There are three keys to the Predators success Thursday night. First, Nashville has to avoid repeating the undisciplined play of Monday night by staying out of the penalty box. Second, the offense needs to continue to score goals.
Craig Smith was named runner up for the NHL’s Rookie of the Month honor. Edmonton Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins received the honor. Smith also received the third-most votes in USA Today’s Calder Trophy poll. Smith is tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in goals with 4 tallies.
Hornqvist has scored in the last three games after going scoreless in his first 7 games of the season.
Finally, goaltender Pekka Rinne needs to continue to play well. Rinne is first in the NHL in both saves (307) and shots against (333), as well as ranking among the top three in minutes played (624:37). Rinne has a 2.50 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. The netminder has started all of Nashville’s 11 games this season and is expected to start again Thursday night.
Kurt Sauer is out of the lineup for Phoenix and will miss the entire season with post-concussion syndrome. Michal Rozsival also remains out of the lineup for the Coyotes. Rozsival has been out of the lineup since taking a slap shot to the face on October 8th against San Jose.
After the game in Phoenix, the Predators move on to San Jose where they will face the Sharks on Saturday night. Both games are on television on Fox Sports Tennessee. Game time Thursday night is just after 9 pm.
Photo credit: AP