Tonight the Nashville Predators will visit Glendale, Arizona to take on the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. The teams have split a pair of games so far this season, with the home team taking each contest. I had the pleasure of visiting Phoenix to take in a game last Spring. Due to the struggle the Yotes have had with attendance, and the recent sale of the team, many fans have made it their personal agenda to turn things around. The game I attended last Spring happened to be sold out, and even though I cheered for Nashville, I was happy to see that the Yotes were doing well.
Through my travels, I met a young lady that impressed me greatly. Heather McWhorter, President, Coyotes Coalition, is a college student from Georgia that happens to live in Arizona, and is also the biggest Coyotes fan on earth. I have never met her in person, and only briefly communicated with her through email and facebook, but I was immediately impressed. I quickly found that even though the Yotes were down and out, there were fans that refused to just let their team move to another city. I gladly stake what little reputation I have on the fact that Heather McWhorter has done more for the Phoenix Coyotes than any other fan has done for a single team in the history of sports. From organizing fans to work events, to putting butts in seats, to getting crowds of people to go to city counsel meetings...she has done it all.
Anyway, numerous articles, blogs, and commentaries have been published about the Coyotes and their troubles. For the most part, those troubles are in the past, and we are in the present. Tonight's game will be exciting, and I wish I could be in Phoenix to see it. It is my opinion that the Phoenix team can hold their own, and so can their fan base.
Nashville comes into the contest at 24-15-6, and they come off a loss against Chicago on Sunday. Phoenix comes in at 23-14-9, and they also enter the game after a loss last night against San Jose. These teams are very evenly matched when going by the numbers. The slight difference that I see is on the penalty kill, where Nashville has an 85.3% success rate, while the Coyotes are at 78.4%. I really doubt 6.9% will make or break either team.
For Nashville, Pekka Rinne is sure to be in net for tonight's game, and Shane O'Brien will be back from a two game suspension. Francis Bouillon is unknown for tonight, due to a Sunday night injury. As far as who to watch, there is the obvious Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Sergi Kostitsyn. For the not so obvious, the Jerred Smithson line has been producing as of late, and I suspect that they will continue to do so.
For Phoenix, I predict that Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start tonight in net. He did play last night, and while I have not seen the updates this morning, I believe he is the best choice for the Yotes. His lowest save percentage in his last five games is .914, and he is at 2.58 goals against average for the season so far. Bryzgalov can be a brick wall, and the Predators offense will have a hard time getting pucks into the net tonight.
This is the second game of six on the road for Nashville. Tonight will be the last game of a four game home stand for Phoenix, and prior to last night's loss against San Jose, they had won four straight. The game tonight is heavily promoted by the Coyotes with a t-shirt and beer giveaway, so the crowd is more than likely going to be extra rowdy. Both teams are craving points...let's just hope Nashville gets two tonight.