NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 25th (All times eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (46-23-5) at Nashville Predators (42-27-5), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Red-hot goaltending has been key for both the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes as of late. That isn't likely to change tonight in a matchup between the Western Conference foes.
After having a nine-game winning streak snapped, Phoenix will again to clinch a playoff spot tonight at Bridgestone Arena versus a Nashville club that hits the ice for the first time since its string of six victories in a row was snapped.
Even tough both teams are coming off losses, the Coyotes and Predators are two of the hottest teams right now in the NHL. Phoenix matched a club record set by the Winnipeg Jets in 1984-85 with its recent nine-game run, while Nashville used its former win streak to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
Goaltending has been big for both clubs. Ilya Bryzgalov posted a 1.66 goals- against average with two shutouts in winning seven of the nine games on Phoenix's run, while Pekka Rinne started all six of the games for Nashville on its tear, notching a 1.14 GAA and three shutouts.
The two have also performed well against their respective opponents. Rinne has never lost in regulation to Phoenix, having gone 3-0-1 with an outstanding 0.49 GAA in four lifetime starts. Meanwhile, Bryzgalov is 5-3-2 with a 2.48 GAA in his career versus Nashville, but has posted a 0.96 GAA in winning the Coyotes' two games against the Preds this year.
Bryzgalov's personal win streak ended with a 2-0 setback to Chicago on Tuesday. The Coyotes goaltender made 30 saves in Phoenix's first loss since March 2.
"They were a very determined team [Tuesday]," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of the Blackhawks. "We turned over a lot of pucks to create transition chances for them."
The loss was costly for Phoenix, which fell two points back of Chicago for the top seed in the Western Conference as well as one point behind San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division.
Still, Phoenix can earn its first postseason berth since 2002 with a victory and a regulation loss by ninth-place Calgary to the New York Islanders tonight.
The Predators have made a strong claim to return to the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons. They are currently tied with Colorado for sixth overall in the West and are six up on the Flames with eight games to go.
Nashville lost, 3-1, at home versus Dallas on Tuesday despite outshooting the Stars by a 35-14 margin. Rinne made 11 saves in the setback.
"Our urgency level could've been higher," said Predators coach Barry Trotz. "They ended up winning the game on a miscue by us. We had plenty of shots, but didn't bury our chances."
Shea Weber tallied the only score for the Predators on assists by Ryan Suter and Steve Sullivan in the opener of a three-game homestand.
Jason Arnott, fourth on the Predators with 44 points, missed his second straight game and is questionable for tonight because of a head injury. He was able to practice on Wednesday.
The Coyotes snapped a three-game road losing streak to the Predators with a 1-0 shootout win at Nashville on Feb. 2. Bryzgalov (25 saves) and Rinne (26 saves) were both credited with shutouts and Adrian Aucoin had the deciding shootout goal in the 10th round.
A victory tonight by Phoenix in the third 2009-10 meeting between the clubs would secure its first season-series win over Nashville since 2002-03.
03/25 10:59:04 ET