NHL

Coyotes-Predators Preview

There is no jostling for postseason position left for the Nashville Predators. Still, a couple victories to close out their schedule would do wonders in helping them move past a recent drought.

While awaiting their first-round opponent, the Predators look to build on their first win in a week and a half when they host the slumping Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

Nashville (40-26-14) picked up one point during a four-game losing streak that kept it from challenging for a top-three spot in the Central Division. The club is locked into the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference and will likely meet the Pacific winner in the first round, either Anaheim, Los Angeles or San Jose.

Nashville avoided matching its longest skid of the season while eliminating Colorado from playoff contention with Tuesday's 4-3 home win. Filip Forsberg scored his 32nd goal to pull within one of Jason Arnott's single-season team record set in 2008-09 and Ryan Johansen had two assists to extend his point streak to four games.

The Predators close at Dallas on Saturday.

''We still have a little ways to go in how we want to play, but it's just nice to be back on the winning side of things,'' Johansen said. ''There were a few big plays from some guys in here (Tuesday).''

Pekka Rinne made 25 saves to help Nashville improve to 22-11-7 at Bridgestone Arena, including 8-1-4 in their last 13.

Rinne wasn't tested often in a 5-2 win over Arizona on Dec. 1, making 13 saves for Nashville's fourth straight home victory in this series. However, the Coyotes snapped the Predators' six-game overall winning streak with a 4-0 victory Jan. 9 against backup Carter Hutton.

Rinne is in line to return for the finale, seeking his sixth straight win over the Coyotes. He's 14-6-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average against them in his career.

Arizona (35-38-7), long eliminated from postseason contention, continues a daunting six-game season-ending stretch against playoff-bound opponents - five coming away from home, where the Coyotes have lost four straight and 14 of 16.

The run started with last Thursday's 4-1 loss at Dallas. Mike Smith logged his third shutout in Saturday's 3-0 home win over Washington, but a season-ending four-game trip opened with Monday's 5-2 loss to St. Louis and Tuesday's 6-2 defeat to Chicago.

The Coyotes close against the Sharks on Saturday.

Smith surrendered five goals against the Blues before Louis Domingue was beaten six times by the Blackhawks.

Even with Smith's shutout, the Coyotes have allowed 20 goals while losing four of their last five.

''That was a combination of really poor execution by our team and really below-average goaltending, and that's what you get,'' coach Dave Tippett said after Tuesday's game.

Smith made 36 saves but surrendered four goals Dec. 1, his sixth straight regular-season defeat against Nashville while with Tampa Bay and the Coyotes. He's posted a 3.99 GAA during that time.

Comments

More NHL