The Phoenix Coyotes put a “Thwipping” (thorough whipping) on the Nashville Predators on January 29th by a score of 4-0. The Predators couldn’t stop any of the fore-checking power of the Coyotes in their first meeting since the Predators were ousted by Phoenix in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
The Coyotes are 4-1-1 in their last six games. Similar to the wave Nashville has been riding (4-1-1), Phoenix has been doing it by winning tough, gritty games.
Game time is at 7 P. M. and for all you love birds, the Predators and Bridgestone Arena have numerous specials and event to cater to the Valentine’s Day festivities. 102.5 the Game has the radio call with Tom Callahan and Stu Grimson and FS Tennessee as the video feed with the incomparable Pete Weber and Terry Crisp.
In this six game streak for both teams, Chicago was the lone regulation loss on the schedule. Chicago beat Phoenix 6-2 and Nashville 3-0. Phoenix has been getting scoring help all through their lineup with Martin Hanzal leading the team in goals (5) and Radim Vrbata on top with 11 points.
Mike Smith has been back in for the Coyotes and in 9 games played already has two shutouts. Oliver Ekman-Larsson continues his steady development into a top line defenseman capable of putting up points similar to Shattenkirk or Pietrangelo on St. Louis. With Morris and Yandle complimenting the rest of the top defensive core and Tippett in attendance at Tuesday nights overtime thriller, the Predators can expect the Coyotes to have plenty of study on their techniques.
Nashville came out against the Sharks with another weak shot-on-goal performance in the first period. After that, Trotz got down to business and presumably “ate their lunch” in the dressing room. Trotz stated in the first intermission interview that he was “embarrassed” by how Nashville played the first period and that he “despised” everything they did in the first. The Predators responded by putting more shots on goal than the Sharks in the second despite killing off 5 penalties. The result? A 1-0 overtime win that simply happened by Ryan Ellis shooting the puck and Colin Wilson deflecting it past Niemi for the game-winner. Terry Crisp’s tutelage comes to life.
The expected lineup for the Predators:
For the Coyotes to win: Play the trap-style defense that succeeded on January 29th. The Coyotes have the knack for clamping down a team like the St. Louis Blues Ken Hitchcock game plan so often does to Nashville. The Coyotes have stellar defense and always have two men back to alleviate odd-man rushes and the quickness of forwards like Lauri Korpikoski can take away any possible 3-on-2 situations.
Speaking of Korpikoski, he is a dangerous player. He typically flies under the radar of most hockey writers not from the desert, but his skills against the Predators are nightmare-inducing stuff. He has 4 goals and 2 assists on the year and a staggering 2PIM. He stays out of trouble and is a solid two-way forward with a gifted set of Hermes’ sandals…he flat-out flies. The Predators have enough to worry about with Doan, Yandle, Hanzal and Vrbata. Throwing a player like Korpikoski into the mix makes for interesting matchup that do not favor Nashville.
For the Predators to win: Take the last two periods and overtime of the San Jose game and repeat. Trotz was heavy-handed in the vitriol after the first period Tuesday night and the Predators responded in kind by constantly buzzing around San Jose’s offensive zone and keeping the play to the outside of their own defensive zone. Rinne further helped the defense being the #1 penalty killer for the Predators once again stopping some point-blank shots in the 5-on-3 and especially in the first period with Martin Havlat setting up shop in the slot.
All but four players have scored at least one point for the Predators (Gill, Hannan, McGrattan, Halischuk). Even Rinne has an assist on the year. If the Predators can continue to score by committee and Colin Wilson can keep up his torrid pace which has him solely leading the Predators in points and goals, it will be a great game for the fans at Bridgestone Arena attempting to behold yet another hopeful sellout. It is worth noting that Pekka Rinne is 6th in the league in GAA (1.75) with at least 7 games played (also 6th in SV% with .934).