After their first regulation loss of 2011, the Coyotes are right back on the ice tonight against the Nashville Predators to close out their four-game homestand. Nashville is nipping at Phoenix’s heels in the standings as they are only one point behind the Yotes while playing one less game. There is still plenty of hockey left to be played, but this is a big game tonight.
Nashville is coming off of a back-to-back against Chicago on Saturday and Sunday. The Preds rallied from two goals down at home on Saturday to win it in overtime, but then got blown out by the Blackhawks the next night behind three third period goals from the Hawks with Anders Lindback in net.
Pekka Rinne will be in net for Nashville tonight though. For how well he has played so far this season, he should be in the discussion for early Vezina talk. Even though his record is only 14-11, Rinne has a 2.13 GAA and has stopped nearly 93 percent of the shots that he has faced. The 28-year-old has done a lot of his damage during the month of January. In six starts, he has allowed only nine goals. The Coyotes will have their work cut out for them with how hot Rinne he has been in recent games.
Besides facing a hot goaltender, Phoenix is battling their fair share of injuries. Vernon Fiddler will be out week-to-week because of an upper body injury that he suffered in Saturday night’s game. Rookie Brett MacLean will start in his place. In his only game played as a Coyote, MacLean scored a goal. Newcomer Michal Rozsival and Ed Jovanovski also continue to battle injuries. Rozsival remains day-to-day with a rib injury that he suffered when he was in a Rangers uniform. Jovanovski is making progress with his lower body injury, but he is still a question mark to play tonight. If neither can play, youngsters Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Schlemko will play in their place.