The Nashville Predators, buoyed by a road trip to the Western Canada where they won two of three, returned to the Sommet Center to begin a streak where they play 14 of 19 games on home ice.
Their positive karma carried forward in to Tuesday' game as they defeated Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes by a score of 2-1. There was a distinct difference between Tuesday night’s Preds and the team that was playing during the last home stand. The Preds played with confidence and didn't have any significant lapses in play similar to what has plagued them recently.
The Predators started the first period with a lot of jump and scored quickly at the 2:50 mark on a wrist shot by Captain Jason Arnott. After getting the lead, the defense toughened and held off a good effort by the Coyotes who out shot the Preds 10-8 in the first stanza. The Preds almost scored again late in the period when Patric Hornqvist rang a shot off the left pipe.
The Preds got off to a quicker start in the second when Radek Bonk scored a rare goal 45 seconds into the period. A mismatch fight ensued a minute later when tough guy Daniel Carcillo mugged the normally docile Greg Zanon. The Preds were unable to convert on the ensuing power play.
Phoenix ended Pekka Rinne's shutout on a goal by Joel Perrault 4:40 into the third. The Coyotes continued with a barrage of shots out shooting the Preds 13-5 in the period. Wayne Gretzky pulled his goalie with 1:26 left and the pressure intensified but Rinne stood firm.
Pekka Rinne started his personal high fifth game in a row, after winning five of his last eight starts. He stopped 29 of 30 Phoenix shots including two acrobatic saves in the closing seconds to save the game. He continues to be the difference maker on this scoring challenged team.
As you would expect when the 28th best power play in the league (Preds) faced the 29th best team (Phoenix) there would be no goals on the man advantage.
The game featured the return of Patric Hornqvist who has played 33 his last games with Milwaukee where he accumulated 23 points. His season started in Nashville playing the first 15 games of the year with the Predators picking up 7 points. Hornqvist had two shots in his return as he was paired with Antti Pihlstrom and Vern Fiddler on the third line for most of the game.
Greg deVris also returned to play for the first time in a month after recovering from a concussion. In limited play he had one shot and picked up a minor penalty.
The win left the Predators with 49 points and in 13th place 4 points out of the final playoff position. Phoenix had entered the game six points ahead of the Predators in a five way tie for sixth place. The Predators now have 32 games remaining and probably need roughly 42 more points to make the playoffs based on current projections.
The Predators return to action Thursday night at the Sommet Center against the Anaheim Ducks, before a quick road trip to Minnesota and Dallas over the weekend.
Injury Update: Alexander Sulzer was placed on IR to make room for the return of Patric Hornqvist. Wade Belak was scratched due to a shoulder injury suffered last week that has not improved. Jordin Tootoo has also been slow in his return due to a cut on the hand suffered in a freak incident in his bout with Todd Bertuzzi last week in Calgary. He may be able to play sometime this weekend. Scott Nichol, who has been out since December 9th still has no set timetable for a return.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and the Columbia Daily Herald