Wednesday night, the Nashville Predators visit the Phoenix Coyotes for the first of four games between the two teams this season. The Predators had a 1-2-1 record against last year’s surprise team. This year, despite wins against Detroit, Los Angeles and Boston, Phoenix is struggling, especially at home, positing a 1-2-2 record.
Nashville hasn’t fared much better as of late having lost back to back games in regulation for the first time this season to central division rivals.
Nashville has lost 34 man games due to injury in 10 games. For the Predators, injuries remain the team’s crux. With Ryan Suter and Matthew Lombardi out, it will be a sigh of relief from Predators fans to know that Marcel Goc will be traveling with the team on their three-game road trip out West. However, Martin Erat will not make the trip. Also, the status of Jordin Tootoo and Francis Bouillon remain unclear. Neither played Sunday in Detroit, but made the trip to Phoenix. In fact, it has not been confirmed with Goc will be in the lineup either. A good sign, however, is that Linus Klasen, last week’s AHL player of the week, was sent back to Milwaukee and no defenseman was recalled in the case of Bouillon not playing.
On Sunday, Nashville only had five defensemen, with Suter and Bouillon out. Wade Belak dressed as the sixth defensemen, but didn’t play a single shift. Playing 5 defensemen with Suter out didn’t work so great against the Red Wings. Watch for Nashville not to do that again.
The Coyotes have no injuries as the only two players listed with injuries are expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday night. Derek Morris and Martin Hanzel were both listed as having upper body injuries.
A key for this Nashville team is to get more shots on goal. The injuries mean players are on lines with teammates they are not used to playing with and maybe one or two practices together is simply not enough time to develop some hockey chemistry. Nashville has been outshot in seven of their last eight games. But when Nashville outshoots their opponents, they are undefeated in regulation, posting a 2-0-1 record.
At home, Phoenix has an 89.5% penalty-kill off rate. The Predators already struggle with the power play (1 for 26 in the last 7 games (3.8%) and will probably have to rely on their strong 5 on 5 play to score some goals, which are hard to come by as of late. The good news for Nashville is that Phoenix has yet to score a goal at home on the power play. In five games, the Coyotes have had 12 chances but with no success.
Both teams will be quick out of the gate because they both are on a losing streak they would like to see end. Wojtek Wolski, a two-game healthy scratch will return to the lineup tonight. Look for him to prove he is as good as the hype suggests.
One player who won’t be in the lineup, but should be, for Phoenix is Andrew Ebbett. Ebbett was reassigned to the American Hockey League. In 8 career games against Nashville, Ebbett has 3 goals and 1 assist, including a heartbreaking overtime goal last year when he played for the Wild. These aren’t bad numbers.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. The next Predators home game is Saturday night, November 13th when the Preds take on the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.