The Predators, sitting right on the edge of falling into 9th place in the Western Conference, enter tonight’s game with a 1-1-3 record after falling again in the shootout Saturday night to the Anaheim Ducks. Nashville, forcing the 5th fewest goals in the NHL after their first five games, finds themselves without one of their top forwards for the remainder of their road trip.
On Saturday evening against Anaheim, Patric Hornqvist was initially hobbled by a Shea Weber blue-line bomb to his upper right thigh. On his next shift out after slowly making his way back to the bench, he was fallen upon by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf which forced him to leave the contest permanently and make his way back to the Nashville for further examination.
Trotz noted to The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper that Hornqvist was “going to miss some time”, which in Trotz-terms doesn’t mean 1-2 games. So, with Hornqvist out and the Predators already hurting for scoring in their first 5 games (only averaging 2 goals a game so far), what can Nashville do to increase their scoring?
Short answer? Not much. Nashville is going to have to dig deep and start grinding their way to a few wins, something they’ve realistically only done once this year (against Minnesota) and that is a game I wouldn’t necessarily constitute as a win that was “grinded” out.
Nashville’s 10 goals forced so far on this season (2, 3, 3, 0, 2 in each game so far) rank 5th only ahead of Colorado/Columbus/Los Angeles/Florida. While this isn’t really time to jump ship only 5 games into the season, it still is a cause for concern especially with Hornqvist out for an extended period of time. Nashville’s only other scoring (for the most part) has come from Martin Erat, with the guns of Fisher and Kostitsyn largely kept quiet during the first five games.
Fisher, Kostitsyn, Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, and even David Legwand are going to have to realistically make their presence known very quickly for the Predators to gain some traction and quit spinning their wheels only to end up on the losing end of another shootout.
Facing off tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Predators venture back into Glendale where their season ended unceremoniously in the second round after a 2-1 loss and dropping the best of seven series 4 games to 1 to Phoenix. For Nashville’s first trip to the desert since last May, they’ll be meeting a team that has lost two straight games and finds themselves at the very bottom of the Western Conference.
Goaltending and defense have been a bit of an early issue for the Coyotes, as they’ve allowed 20 goals in their first five games. However, their offense is kicking in quickly as they rank 6th in the NHL in goals forced with 17 netted already.
Ageless wonder Steve Sullivan, Radim Vrbata, and Mikkel Boedker lead the way for the Coyotes with 5 points each (including Sullivan’s recent hat trick)
Jason LaBarbera and Mike Smith have split the first five starts 2 games to 3 with LaBarbera picking up the only win so far for Phoenix. I’d expect Mike Smith to get the start tonight against the Predators.
Looking at the Predators/Coyotes matchup historically…
Most goals forced by Nashville: 8 (happened once, 2/21/04 in an 8-2 win)
Most goals allowed by Nashville: 6 (happened three times, last 10/11/07 in a 6-3 loss)
Last Five/Ten Games of the Series for Nashville: 2-3-0 / 5-5-0
Martin Erat led all scoring last season against Phoenix with 1 goals and 3 assists (4 points).
Nashville’s powerplay went 1-11 (9.1%) and 7-7 on the penalty kill last season against the Coyotes.
On November 3rd, 2011… Pekka Rinne celebrated his 29th birthday by signing a 7-year, $49 million contract, and recording a 35 save 3-0 shutout against the Coyotes in Jobing.com Arena.
On January 18th, 2011… J.P. Dumont registered the franchise’s fourth-ever road hat trick and Patric Hornqvist pitched in two goals in a 5-2 victory at Jobing.com Arena.
On November 30th, 2010… Pekka Rinne recorded his third shutout of the Coyotes in a six-start span, stopping all 33 shots he faced in a 3-0 win at Bridgestone Arena.
Phoenix is going to be hungry for a win, but so is Nashville. Who is the hungriest? Let’s hope the Predators come out on the winning end.