Taking a Look At Tonight’s Matchup, Arizona Coyotes With Howlin’ Hockey


The Nashville Predators (18-7-2) play visitor tonight to the Arizona Coyotes (10-15-3) in a Western Conference battle.

Nashville and Arizona met earlier this season at Bridgestone Arena where the Predators got the victory 4-3 via the shootout. James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, and Ryan Ellis each lit the lamp in the game back on October 21.

Mike Smith is the expected to be in net tonight for the Coyotes. The Predators did not participate in a morning skate today so the starting netminder for the Predators is a mystery as of right now. Don’t be too surprised if Coach Laviolette plays Carter Hutton in net tonight against the struggling Coyotes. Pekka Rinne is however listed as the ‘projected starter’.

We caught up with our friends over at Howlin’ Hockey to get a bit of an inside look at the Arizona Coyotes:

Q: The team’s first met Oct. 21 as the Preds took the victory 4-3 in a SO. Give us the biggest thing that’s changed for the Yotes since then.

A: I hate to say it, but the biggest change is their confidence. Since then, the Coyotes have made quite a few roster changes — placed David Schlemko and Kyle Chipchura on waivers, made Tobias Rieder a permanent part of the team, traded Rob Klinkhammer for defensive prospect Philip Samuelsson, and seen countless young players make guest appearances — and I think the constant state of uncertainty has gone on a little too long.

The players may have been a bit disjointed when the season began, but they’ve become gun-shy and hesitant in recent weeks. That’s probably the biggest difference between the Coyotes of late October and the Coyotes of early December.

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Q: The Coyotes have really struggled in their last 10 games going 2-6-2. What’s been the root cause of the struggles as of late? Out shot in all but 3 of their last 10 games. Whats going on with that?

A: Well, as I just mentioned, the team has really seen a slip in self-confidence. The Coyotes are dominant off the draw and powerful to start the rush… but they can’t seem to put the puck in the back of the net because they spend too long gearing themselves up to shoot. They take safer, easier shots on goal… while they aren’t going wide of the net, they’re making it way too easy for the goalie to stop the puck.

They’re also trying too hard to focus on blocking shots, and they’re forgetting that the other team needs to be covered. I think the Coyotes are one of the worst marking coverage teams in the league — they aren’t the Toronto Maple Leafs of Wednesday night by any means, but they spend so much time trying to get to the puck and intercept shots that they forget to cover guys who can easily scoop up blocked rebounds and do some damage to the score.

If they worked a little bit harder on being more physically aggressive one-on-one with other teams, I think you’d see a sharp decline in these absolutely foolish goals they keep allowing.

Q: Our good friend Devan Dubnyk was in net against Nashville back on Oct. 21. How have fans been receiving him this season?

A: That’s a funny question. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, starter Mike Smith hasn’t had the easiest time of it this season, and as a result fans are reacting to Dubnyk in one of two ways; they’re either convinced he needs to take over for Smitty altogether or angry that he’s having such an easy time of it. He’s certainly a good goaltender, but there’s no question that the team was tending to play better in front of him each night… and as a result, fans either view him as the hero desert hockey deserves or as the outsider here to besmirch Smith’s good name.

Q: The Yotes haven’t played in four nights. Good thing or bad thing as they try to end their current three game losing streak?

A: Could go either way. The team has been more than accountable for their disastrous last few weeks, but it’s easy to say that you’ll improve — now it’s time to show it. They’ll either come in determined to finally get a redemption win, or they’ll be sluggish, upset, and disoriented. Could be a really great, competitive game, but things could also get out of hand pretty quickly.

Q:  Predictions and why..

A: I think it’s going to be a pretty high-scoring game; the question is which team will be the one scoring. Like I said, for the Coyotes it’s all going to ride on whether they take action to regain their confidence; if they do, Nashville could get caught sleeping, assuming they’ve got this one in the bag before the puck even drops.

Either way, I expect to see plenty of energy out of three guys — Shane Doan (who leads by example), Tobias Rieder (who’s been the only consistent player all season), and Keith Yandle…who everyone is speculating might get moved if the team views this season as lost.