Jan. 28, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata (17), Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) and center David Legwand (11) battle for the puck along the boards during the first period at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Gameday: Phoenix Coyotes at Nashville Predators, 2/14/13

PHOENIX COYOTES

at NASHVILLE PREDATORS

February 14th, 2013
Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Phoenix leads season series 1-0

The Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes last met in the desert on January 28th, when the ‘Yotes handed the Preds their second shutout loss in three games.

Feb 12, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Members of the Nashville Predators celebrate after the game winning goal by center Colin Wilson (not pictured) against the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators beat the Sharks 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(6-3-4, 3rd in Central)

The Predators won a hard-fought game against San Jose two nights ago. They’ll be looking to avenge that earlier shutout loss now that the team’s defensive system is working and its goalie is playing superstar hockey.

Key players

Pekka Rinne (5-3-3, 1.75 GAA, .934 SV%) has people around the league talking with his recent play. He’s among the league leaders in shutouts, GAA, and save percentage, and he still manages to win games despite playing behind an offense that can charitably be described as anemic.

Nashville Predators forward Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson is Nashville’s leading scorer so far this season. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Colin Wilson (4G-4A) has points in four games this February. The Predators have won all four of those games. In the two games last weekend where he was held pointless, Nashville had just one goal combined. As goes Colin Wilson, it seems, so go the Predators.

Others to watch

Martin Erat (3G-4A) was the team’s leading scorer for a few games, but he hasn’t logged a point in four games since picking up three in the blowout win against St. Louis back on February 5th. Even more uncharacteristic than the scoring drought are his 16 penalty minutes in those pointless games. Erat’s 71-game PIM total last season was 30. A return to form would be very helpful to Nashville’s cause tonight.

Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith faces the Nashville Predators

When Mike Smith is good, so are the Coyotes. (PHOTO: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

PHOENIX COYOTES

(6-5-2, 4th in Pacific)

Phoenix had a very rough start to the season but seem to have righted the ship. They still give up close to three goals per game, but they’re coming off two days rest and should be ready to lock in defensively against the league’s worst offense.

Key players

Mike Smith (4-3-1, 2.76, .901) has been excellent at times this season, posting two shutouts including a 1-0 shootout win over San Jose. He’s also given up six goals on two different occasions. Both of those were against Chicago, but that .901 save percentage says he’s beatable.

Radim Vrbata (3G-8A) was the Coyotes’ second-leading scorer last season and has continued his excellent play through most of this year, averaging nearly a point per game. He only has two points (both assists) in the last five games, though.

Former Nashville Predators forward Steve Sullivan

Tonight marks Sully’s first return visit to Nashville. (PHOTO: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Steve Sullivan (4G-1A) returns to Nashville for the first time tonight. He had a hat trick earlier this season for the Coyotes, something the Predators once enjoyed but don’t want to see any more of. They’ll want to tell him thanks for the memories, wish him well, and then proceed to shut him down.

Bottom line

The Coyotes shutout at the end of January wasn’t exactly a fluke, since both of these teams play tough, defensive-minded hockey. But the their four goals against the Nashville Predators were; no other team has matched that total against the Preds’ top-ranked team defense. The major difference in tonight’s game, though, will be the Bridgestone crowd: another sellout is expected, a stark contrast to the half-empty Jobing.com Arena they played in last time. If the Preds can give the home crowd a reason to get into the game early they can make life very hard on the Coyotes tonight.

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Tags: Nashville Predators Phoenix Coyotes

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