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Game 3 – Phoenix @ Nashville: The Oh So Sweet Home Opener


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Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images North America

The Phoenix Coyotes mosey into the Bridgestone Arena tonight in the glorious home opener for the Nashville Predators. Festivities are going to begin down at “The Bridge” around 4pm CST tonight with the annual Red Carpet (now Gold Carpet) introduction into the arena for the players/coaches. However, with the injuries and lineup changes, could the festivities take a downward turn by the end of the night?

Last Year’s Series: 2-2 (1-1 Home, 1-1 Away)

Last Season’s Video Recaps:
Game 1: November 3rd, 2010:


Game 2: November 30th, 2010:

NO VIDEO


Game 3: January 18th, 2011:


Game 4: February 19th, 2011:

Looking at the Coyotes: Phoenix is coming into Nashville dropping their first two games of the season, however not without garnering at least a point Monday night in Dallas. Losing to San Jose 6-3 on Saturday and Dallas 2-1 in a shootout 3 days ago, Phoenix started the season against two divisional opponents, much like the Predators.

Yet, while a 50% Penalty Kill in their game against San Jose essentially doomed them, they were much tighter and more contained Monday evening going a perfect 7-7 on the PK and new goaltender stopping 24 saves before relinquishing the game in the shootout.

Phoenix has started the season with a 4-14 powerplay, which ties them for 5th in the league right now at 28.6%. Although it’s still EXTREMELY early in the season, converting on the powerplay definitely bodes well for a team like Phoenix, who was 23rd in the league last year on the powerplay.

The Dave Tippet coached Coyotes hope to come into Nashville and spoil the Predators home opener to collect their first win of the season

Looking at the Predators: Nashville has been on cloud 9 as of late after a thrilling double win weekend to open the season and give the Predators their 5th ever 2-0-0 start to a season. With the Predators taking care of two divisional rivals back-to-back on Friday/Saturday with a 3-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets and a 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues, Nashville is getting help in the most surprising of places.

With David Legwand one point out from the LEAD in total points in the NHL (yeah, the ENTIRE NHL), and Craig Smith one point behind him and tied with Buffalo’s Luke Adam for the league lead in points for a rookie, Nashville could easily be described as “firing on all cylinders” right now.

The Predators also are in uncharted territory with their special teams play, currently in the top 10 in both powerplay and penalty kill percentages (2nd in powerplay percentage at 42.9 [3-7] and 9th in penalty kill percentage at 90% [9-10]). Yet, the losses of Martin Erat and potentially Patric Hornqvist could be a damper on the party for the Nashville.

Erat will be out with an “upper body injury” and Hornqvist is having some nagging foot problems, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds when the injury bug comes calling this early into the season

For the Coyotes to win: Mike Smith will have to BE the number one goalie that he is paid to be. Earning $2 million a year may not seem a whole lot for a goalie, but if Smith doesn’t turn in performances equal to his Monday outing against Dallas on a nightly basis, Jason Labarbera could supplant Smith as the number one goalie for Phoenix, causing a nightmarish “goaltenders duel” between the two and that is quite possibly the LAST thing Phoenix wants right now.

If Smith plays a lights-out type of game, counterpart Pekka Rinne will have to as well, which isn’t a shocker for most people. However, if the pucks start floating into the Coyotes net, it’s going to be a long night for Phoenix

For the Predators to win: Nashville has to have better 5-on-5 play and better defense from their final defensive pairing. Laakso and Hillen so far have been…well, for lack of a better word, uninspiring in the first two games of the season. Improved play from that partnership and all around better 5-on-5 play from the team itself, Nashville will put itself in better position to win more games night in and night out.

Not only that, but the Predators HAVE to improve on their 25th overall ranking on faceoffs at 45.7%. Faceoffs are a key component to the game of hockey, as all of you already know, that HAS to be improved upon.

If the Predators can follow those simple rules and keep feeding Pekka whatever goalie food their giving him, it’s a pure recipe for success

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That being said, no more predictions from here on out. I’m 95% wrong most of the time, so I’m going to quit predicting! HA! Past that, if you like what I have listed out here or if you have any questions/comments/concerns, feel free to let me know at kristopher.martel@thepredatorial.com

Stay frosty, friends