The Nashville Predators (29-17-3) travel to Phoenix to play the Coyotes (28-17-5) in a 8 p.m. CST match-up tonight with one of the two most surprising teams in hockey this season. The Preds play the other, the Avalanche, tomorrow.
This will be the first meeting of the year between the Preds and Coyotes who are battling for a return to the playoffs. Both teams currently have 61 points and are in fourth and fifth place respectively. Last year the Preds won both meetings in Nashville and split the two games in Phoenix.
The Predators are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday which was a game they should have won. The Predators have played better on the road lately winning their last five on the road and losing three of the last four at home.
The Coyotes also lost on Monday, 7-2 to Buffalo. The team has slumped lately going 3-4-2 in their last nine games. Phoenix is tough at home, going 12-3-2 in their last 17 home games including a 10 game win streak from November 21st to December 29th.
The game will mark Pred fan favorite Vern Fiddler, playing his first game against the Predators after not being re-signed over the summer. Fiddler has played well with his new team having 5 goals and 12 assist. Former Predator Scottie Upshall is one of several leading scorers for Phoenix with 14 goals and 12 assists.
Jordin Tootoo, who has missed the last 17 games with a broken foot, is expected to return for the Predators. The Preds, who were hoping to be at full strength for the first time since early in the season, will have to wait another day as J. P. Dumont will be out with the flu.
Dan Ellis (11-9-1, 2.52, .915) will follow his strong relief performance on Monday with a start tonight for the Preds. It is expected that Ilya Bryzgalov (25-13-4, 2.32, .917) will be in net for the Yotes.
Predators Keys to the Game
Remember How The Road Win Streak Works...
The Predators need to remember how they won the last five road games and not just show up at the Jobbing.com Arena expecting some kind of magic to happen. In each of the last five road wins, the team showed up ready to play at the opening puck drop and played the full sixty minuets once the game got underway.
If the team decides to take some time off during the game as they have at home recently, they will have little chance to extend their streak. This is a hungry Coyotes team with stubborn goaltending so falling behind a couple of goals early will be tough to overcome.
Improved Special Teams Play...
It is doubtful that he Preds can hold their own with the Coyotes if special teams are not at their best.
The Predators have now gone three games without a power play goal and are 25th (16.2%) in the league. Phoenix is not much better being ranked 21st (16.9%) so a goal or two on the Preds power play could make a difference.
On the penalty kill, Phoenix is considerably better than the Preds being ranked 10th (82.9%) while the Preds continue to languish near the bottom in 26th (77.4%).
Dad's Trip Karma...
The Predators have played well when in recent years when the fathers have joined the team and roomed with their sons on the road for a few days.
Stealing a great quote from yesterday's post, Barry Trotz explained the reasons for success, "Traditionally, our father's trips have been successful. No one wants to be rooming with their dad when they lose a hockey game. The dad's have been supportive but they also help coach you too. The guys prefer to win and everything's good. Hopefully the dads will be the lucky charm as usual."
The Preds will fly to Denver after the game and play the Avalanche tomorrow night.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass