Season Series: Tuesday's matchup is the third of four meetings between these Western Conference foes, who don't meet again until March 12. Each club has posted a three-goal victory in the other team's barn. Thirteen different Coyotes tallied a point when the 'Yotes spoiled the Predators' home opener with a 5-2 win on Oct. 13. Three weeks later on Nov. 3, Pekka Rinne capped off what was already a very happy 29th birthday. After signing a seven-year, $49 million contract extension earlier in the day, Rinne stopped all 35 shots he faced to anchor Nashville's 3-0 whitewash of the Coyotes. It was the Finnish netminder's fourth career shutout against Phoenix -- his highest total against any team.
Big Story: The Coyotes have posted two victories in Chicago within the last week, winning three of their last five to climb into the seventh spot in the Western standings. But they are only just beginning what is an extremely tough month in their schedule. Tuesday's meeting with Nashville marks the first of four sets of back-to-back games for the 'Yotes in December.
Nashville has struggled to gain any traction this season, as they sit in 11th in the West with 28 points. The Preds have yet to put together a three-game winning streak and have won back-to-back games in regulation just twice after winning the first two games of the season. They will look to improve on their 4-4-3 record in the Music City in the coming weeks, as 11 of their next 15 games are at home.
Coyotes: The Coyotes improved to 8-4-1 on the road as they overcame a furious Blackhawks' rally to leave the Windy City with a 4-3 shootout victory on Monday night. Goals by Raffi Torres and Radim Vrbata gave the 'Yotes a 2-0 advantage after one, then Keith Yandle's tally 1:09 into the second extended the lead to 3-0 and chased Corey Crawford. However, Mike Smith surrendered three goals over the next 13 minutes to even the game at 3-3. After a scoreless third and overtime session, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Vrbata converted on their shootout attempts, while Smith stopped both shots he faced to give Phoenix the extra point.
"They started coming a little harder and we just weren't able to adjust to them until the third period," said Yandle, who acted as goalie when Smith was caught out of his net and robbed Marian Hossa of the go-ahead goal midway through the third. "We kind of just stood around and watched them while they did their thing. With a team as good as them, you can't do that. Everybody knew here in the locker room that it wasn't a good period and everybody was anxious to get out there for the third and have a better 20 minutes to get the points."
Predators: The Predators' first game on home ice after a 2-3-0 road trip was an "eventful" one, featuring the return of Ryan Miller in goal for Buffalo on Saturday. The Preds fell to the Sabres 3-2 behind Miller's 32 saves, but it was a different kind of play involving Miller with just over four minutes left in the second period that sparked much of the chatter after the game. Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo carried the puck hard to the net from the near-boards and was pursued closely by Christian Ehrhoff. As he skated to the edge of the crease, Tootoo jumped and crashed into Miller, knocking him out of the net and onto the ice. The collision prompted a pileup of players, and Miller threw several punches at Tootoo after they hit the ice. Tootoo was given a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct. On Tuesday, the NHL suspended him for two games, without pay, making him eligible to return Dec. 10 against Anaheim. Tootoo insisted after the game that he did his best to avoid any contact with Miller.
"I was driving to the net and I got a little shove from behind," Tootoo said. "The last thing I wanted to do was run the goalie over and put my team down. Clearly, I tried to jump out of the way. There was no intent to charge at him."
Unlike when Miller was bowled over by Milan Lucic on Nov. 12 in Boston, he stayed in the game and outplayed his counterpart, Anders Lindback -- who made his third start for Nashville after a perfect relief outing in the Preds' win at Vancouver on Thursday. Lindback faced just 14 shots against Buffalo, and stopped 11 of them.
"We could have probably used one more save," coach Barry Trotz said. "There are not too many things I can say about our game other than the mistakes. I thought we probably made six mistakes and three of them ended up in our net."
Who's Hot: Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker has points in four of his last five with two goals and two assists in that span. … For Nashville, David Legwand has notched a goal and an assist in each of his last two games.
Stat Pack: By fending off the Hawks, the Coyotes improved to 12-1-3 when scoring first and 9-2-1 following a loss. … The Preds have scored nine power-play goals in their last eight games, including a perfect 3-for-3 effort in their 6-5 win over the Canucks.
Puck Drop: Craig Smith is having an outstanding rookie season for the Predators, as he leads the club with 21 points in 26 games. The Madison, Wisc., native has 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) in his last four games, as he ranks second behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in scoring among rookies.