Preview: Coyotes at Predators (3/25)

Location: Bridgestone Arena

Game Time: 7:00 pm Central

TV: FSN

Radio: 104.5 The Zone (WGFX-FM)

Records:
Nashville: 42-27-5 (89)
Phoenix: 46-23-5 (97)

Season Series:
1/21/10 – NSH 2 – PHX 4
2/2/10 – PHX 1 – NSH 0 (SO)

On Fire: Despite both teams suffering losses in their last outings, Thursday’s matchup features arguably the two hottest teams in the NHL. The Coyotes come to Music City having won 9 of their last 10. The Predators have won 6 of their last 7. Phoenix appears poised to make its first playoff appearance since 2001-02. More importantly, the team is in the hunt to win its first division title since 1977-78, when the team was in Winnipeg and in the World Hockey Association. You can take it as a section303.com guarantee that Bobby Hull will not lead them to another Avco Cup this season.

Know What I Mean, Vern? Thursday marks Vernon Fiddler’s second appearance at the Bridgestone Arena as a Phoenix Coyote. In his last appearance, he managed 3 shots on goal, no points and a very un-Fiddler-like 22.2 percent faceoff percentage, his second lowest of the season. Aside from that, however, he has been the same Vern Fiddler that Predators fans have always known, putting up mild scoring numbers while being a monster in the faceoff circle. Fiddler is 23rd in the league with a 53.1% faceoff win percentage.

Something Seems Familiar: The Coyotes have made it to this point in the season despite the lack of a single offensive scoring threat. Shane Doan is Phoenix’s highest scorer with 52 points. Radim Vrbata is the only 20+ goal scorer on the team. Yet this team was one win away from being the top seed in the Western Conference. Like their Thursday night opponent, the Coyotes have seen scoring coming from all directions.

Quest for 50: Martin Erat is still the team leader with 48 points, but did not register a point on Tuesday. Steve Sullivan joined Patric Hornqvist at 45 points with his assist on Shea Weber’s goal. The lowest high point total in franchise history was David Legwand’s 48 in 2002-03. Coincidentally, that was around the last time David Legwand scored a goal.

Legwand-O-Meter Still Ticking: David Legwand has not scored a goal in 32 games. Per the section303.com Legwand-O-Meter, that will be almost 82 days by game time. And we have to go back to last calendar year before we can find Leggy scoring on a goalie. So yeah…

Magic Number: The Predators’ current magic number to guarantee a playoff spot is still 13 points. In other words, if the Predators pick up 13 points over the final 8 games of the season, there is no way that they can drop beyond 8th place.

Power Play Cooling Off: After an abysmal start to the season, the Predators’ power play caught fire in February, scoring 15 goals in 13 games between February 4 and March 12. At one point, the Predators had scored a power play goal in 8 consecutive games. It would appear that streak has ended and a bit of power play frustration is starting to sink back in, scoring only one power play goal in their last 6 games. The power play is 1-for-15 in that span.

Quick Notes: If the season ended today, the Predators would play the Sharks, furthering the casual hockey fan’s confusion over the NHL’s playoff system. Yes, casual fan, it is possible to play teams that are not the Sharks or the Red Wings in the playoffs…Per Bryan Mullen at The Tennessean, Joel Ward is out for the rest of the week. Of course, he also reports that the Preds lost to the Blues on Sunday, so take it with a grain of salt…Jason Arnott will also not play per The Tennessean, which means both Cal O’Reilly and Nick Spaling should be in the lineup. Unfortunately, the injury is beginning to sound more and more like another concussion…Mark Willoughby at The View From 111 has written a brilliant retort to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News publishing yet another Predators-to-Kansas City relocation rumor (pretty much ignoring anything remotely approaching a fact)…For real-time tweets during the game, be sure to follow us at @cellblock303 and, to join in on the conversation, be sure to tweet along with us by following @PredFans.