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Predatorial Pregame Warmup: October 31, 2013

pregame

Oct 31, 2013



Written by: Patten Fuqua

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Last updated: October 30, 2013 at 11:35 pm

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Nashville Predators (6-5-1) at Phoenix Coyotes (8-3-2)
Gametime: 9:00pm CT / 10:00pm ET
Television: FS-Tennessee
Radio: 102.5 The Game

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Injuries

Nashville Predators - Pekka Rinne (hip)

Phoenix Coyotes - Rostislav Klesla (lower body), Lauri Korpikoski (upper body)

Projected Goaltending Matchup

Carter Hutton, 2-1-0, 0 SO, 0.927Sv%, 2.42 GAA

VS

Mike Smith, 7-2-2, 0 SO, 0.912Sv%, 2.97 GAA

Keep an eye on...

Nashville Predators -

Roman Josi - The Swiss defenseman has missed Nashville’s last 10 games after a vicious, unpenalized hit from Colorado’s Steve Downie in the second game of the season. For Josi, it was either the fourth or fifth concussion of his career, depending on who you ask. It came at the beginning of a season that was supposed to be Josi’s coming out party. On Thursday night, Josi will be making his return to the lineup.

Last season, Josi turned a few heads by taking Ryan Suter’s vacated spot on the top line at Shea Weber’s side and did an admirable job. In Josi’s absence, Seth Jones has been nothing short of amazing filling Josi’s shoes, adding elements to the offensive attack that the Predators have never seen before from the blue line. In his first game back, Josi will likely spend most of his time playing on the second or third pairing.

Phoenix Coyotes -

Mike Smith - Barry Trotz and the Predators remember Mike Smith quite well from their playoff matchup two seasons ago. In the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals, Smith won 4 of 5 games against the Predators, including a shutout at Bridgestone Arena in Game 4 and a 1-goal outing in the Game 5 clincher. Smith has only faced the Predators in one occasion since – a 3-0 loss to the Predators last season.

This season, while Smith has allowed 4 goals or more in 4 of 12 games, he maintains a 7-2-2 record. In 7 games, however, the Coyotes have provided him with at least 4 goals of support.

Main Storylines

Nashville Predators -

Nashville is preparing to embark on the longest road trip in franchise history and they are doing it without Pekka Rinne. For the next several weeks, the absence of Pekka Rinne will continue to be the underlying theme to any game Nashville plays.

At least on Thursday, Nashville will have two goaltenders with NHL experience, as Magnus Hellberg played minutes late in Nashville’s blowout loss to St. Louis on Saturday. Hellberg and Hutton will need to stand tall – in Nashville’s 2 games in Phoenix last year, the Coyotes averaged 5 goals per game.

Phoenix Coyotes -

Phoenix can score and they can score often. With 3.31 goals per game, Phoenix is tied for fourth place in the NHL in scoring and that is currently the key to the team’s success.

The Coyotes, however, do not have a point-per-game player despite their high scoring output. The team’s leading scorer – Radim Vrbata – has 12 points in 13 games. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett, who would tie the Coyotes record for career head coaching wins with a victory, coaches a very similar style to Barry Trotz – the offense is spread out among several players without any single player who could be considered a true consistent goal-scoring “threat”.

Last time out...

On March 28 of last season, the Coyotes marched into Bridgestone Arena and – like most of Nashville’s contests last season – it was ugly. Phoenix exploded with 5 goals in the first 8:26 of the game, with Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, David Moss, Matthew Lombardi and Keith Yandle all lighting the lamp to put the Coyotes up 5-0 early.

Nashville, however, tried to mount the comeback to end all comebacks when David Legwand and Rich Clune scored 2 quick back-to-back goals to close the game to 5-2…with 10 minutes left in the first period.

The pace slowed considerably after the first two minutes, but Phoenix and Nashville would both score again before the first stanza ended.

When all of the dust had settled, Phoenix walked out of Nashville with a 7-4 win. Rostislav Klesla had 4 assists for the Coyotes, while Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal each had 3 points.

Chris Mason ended up with the loss for the Predators, who played both goaltenders, while Jason LaBarbera earned the win for Phoenix.

One interesting fact...

Nashville’s seven-game road trip ties for the longest in franchise history with two other road trips. From October 30 to November 12, 2002, Nashville played seven road games. Earlier this year, from January 22 to February 5, the Predators again played seven games.

The 17 day trip however, makes this the longest road trip in franchise history in terms of duration.

All told, the Predators will go a total of 21 days between home games. To put that in perspective, Nashville has 19 days between home games during the Olympic break.

The longest stretch between home games was during the 2010 Olympic break, when the Predators spent 24 days between home games.

 

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Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua