Just six days ago the Nashville Predators dismantled a top defensive team in the NHL. They have another shot at that feat tonight.
Think about this for a second when you look at the recent schedule for the Nashville Predators. They’ve played virtually all of the top defensive teams in the NHL in less than two weeks time.
They have another one tonight as they welcome the Arizona Coyotes to Bridgestone Arena. The Predators are coming off a very successful four-game road trip that ended with an exhilarating win at Boston. A place the Predators usually have trouble winning at.
The Predators took seven of eight points during that road trip, and managed to put up a lot of goals despite playing some of the best defensive teams in the league. They’ve played the Stars, Islanders and Bruins in the last ten days, which are all top-five teams in terms of goals give up per game.
Now they take on the Coyotes, which gives up the fewest goals per game in the NHL at 2.47. An incredible number and one that tells me the Predators have hopefully bottled up whatever offensive firepower they had on their road trip and brought it back to Nashville.
Coyotes are very underrated
Here’s the thing about the Coyotes. They’re often overlooked and underrated by many because they don’t play in a sexy market and they play a pretty boring style of hockey to the average fan. It may not always be exciting, but it sure is effective.
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As I mentioned earlier, the Coyotes give up the fewest goals per game in the NHL. Sound familiar to last week when the Predators were going up against the New York Islanders? We know how that ended as the Predators erupted for eight goals after falling behind 3-1.
Can the Predators duplicate that again? I can promise with high confidence that they’re not scoring eight goals again. However, their offense is clicking on all cylinders again. I also don’t think the Coyotes have as dangerous of an offense as the Islanders have.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes, their Vezina Trophy contender Darcy Kuemper is currently out with a lower-body injury and is listed as week-to-week. He’s obviously a big reason why the Coyotes give up so few goals, but the team itself also plays great defense in front of him.
The Coyotes will turn to Antti Raanta in net, who is no slouch. He made 28 saves on 30 shots against Detroit in his first start since Keumper’s injury. He’s more than capable of stepping in and holding down the fort for Arizona.
Predators have struggled vs. Arizona recently
Arizona hasn’t been an easy opponent to crack for the Predators recently. They took the 5-2 loss in mid-October to the Coyotes during a stretch where the Predators were scoring a lot of goals. We enter tonight’s game in a similar situation.
Last season the Predators lost two of three against Arizona, and got shutout in one of them. The other loss had a final score of 2-1. Perhaps the Predators are going to have to win this in ugly fashion, which is just fine with me.
The Predators are finally at full strength in their starting lineup with Viktor Arvidsson and Mikael Granlund back from injury. That has brought on some very intriguing line combinations from Peter Laviolette. Most notably, Filip Forsberg on the fourth line and Austin Watson being a healthy scratch for Colin Blackwell.
This is a much more physical lineup, which is perfect when facing a team like Arizona. They have to match their physicality in this one, and obviously get more consistent goaltending. I’d expect Juuse Saros to get the start tonight, but a starting goaltender for Nashville hasn’t officially been announced yet.
Kyle Turris and Craig Smith have been building a lot of chemistry with each other recently and have a lot of experience together going back to last season. These two feed of each other and are making each other better.
The fourth line featuring Forsberg, Nick Bonino and Colton Sissons might be the best and most lethal fourth line in the NHL. How many teams have their top-two goal scorers lining up on their fourth line? Crazy, but it just might work.
If the Predators can pull off another win tonight, that will be against another quality opponent. They’ve had some success against teams at the top of the standings recently with wins over teams like the Islanders, Bruins and the Blues in late November.
They also had consecutive losses to the Sabres and Stars before going on the four-game road trip. The Predators find themselves just three points behind the Flames for the final wildcard spot and are gradually making up ground in the crowded Central Division.
Tonight’s puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. CDT from Bridgestone Arena and will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee. Three games left before the highly-anticipated Winter Class game on New Year’s Day against the Dallas Stars.