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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 4:40 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Coyotes' skate: Gordon absent, Korpikoski present

NASHVILLE -- Boyd Gordon did not skate Thursday for the Phoenix Coyotes after stepping in front of a Shea Weber slap shot Wednesday night.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after Game 3 that Gordon was fine. Gordon left the game after dropping to one knee and appearing to take the blast off his arm from close range, but did return.

"There's some guys ... that's just what they do," Tippett said. "Sometimes you wonder why all guys don't do that, but that's [Gordon]. That's why he's such a valuable player for us."

Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith called Gordon "a warrior." This is Gordon's first year with the Coyotes after signing in the offseason. He's been a top faceoff/penalty-killer in the League after carving out that role with the Washington Capitals.

He also has a knack for being on the receiving end of big hits and hard shots, and Wednesday night was no different.

"I have gear on and I'm scared sometimes," Smith said.

Gordon is expected to skate Friday morning before Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena.

Another injured Coyotes forward, Lauri Korpikoski, did practice Thursday. Korpikoski has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury. He also skated Wednesday morning before Game 3.

"It's been a couple days, a few days. Yeah, always day-by-day I am feeling better," Korpikoski said. "It is good. I think I've been game-time [decision] for a while now, so it is the same. We'll see how it goes."

Added Tippett: "We're just day-to-day. We'll continue tomorrow. He's out there and trying to get himself going."

Korpikoski had 17 goals and 37 points this season for the Coyotes while playing in all 82 regular-season games. He also missed two contests during the opening round against Chicago because of an upper-body injury.

"I missed a couple in the first series and it wasn't fun," he said. "To miss a couple again, it is tough. I feel a lot more tired than if I was playing. It is not fun to watch those games, but hopefully I can get back soon."




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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 4:30 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Smith venture out to play the puck proved costly

NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes were still assessing blame one day after yielding a critical goal on a play in which goaltender Mike Smith came far out of his net to handle the puck in a 2-0 loss to the Predators in Game 3.
 
Coach Dave Tippett blamed his defense for not getting back fast enough on the play while Smith blamed himself. Smith raced out above the goal line and then reversed the puck behind his net. Tippett said a defenseman should have been there. None was. Instead, the Predators' Gabriel Bourque was and he fed David Legwand in front for the game's first goal. It was the first time in the series Nashville led after losing the first two games. Thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Preds have not lost a game in which they have scored first.
 
"It's probably a bad read on my part," Smith said. "I made that play a hundred times this year. It's worked out most times. Last night it was probably a bad read. I should've gone forehand up the boards with it."
 
If Smith had played it up the boards, he still could have risked that Nashville would have intercepted the puck in the neutral zone or that he could've gotten the attempt blocked with him still out of position. That's why Tippett laid blame on his defense. Adrian Aucoin and Rostislav Klesla were the defensemen on the ice at the time.
 
"That's not Mike's mistake," Tippett said. "That's two defensemen. One could've got back quicker. The other (defenseman) should've been in that corner. That's not on Mike. Watch how many times that deters the forecheck. He's the best in the League at it by far, so we have to use that asset."
 
As for Nashville's second goal, Mike Fisher scored while practically standing on the goal line from near the corner. He threw the puck at the net and it glanced off Smith's outstretched goal stick and then popped high into the net. Smith said he had "no idea" how that goal went in.
 
"It's scientifically impossible for that to happen," he said. "I've looked at it and (goaltending coach Sean Burke)'s looked at it a hundred times. I still don't know how it goes from that angle."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 2:57 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Fisher doesn't mind a little bit of luck

NASHVILLE -- Mike Fisher has put shots on net this postseason that he thought were going in, so naturally his first goal of this postseason came on a pass.

Fisher gave the Nashville Predators a 2-0 lead in Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinal on Wednesday, which helped his team cut Phoenix's series lead to 2-1 and snapped a personal goal drought that had reached 16 postseason games.

"Yeah, it is always nice to get one. It had been a while," Fisher said Thursday after practice at Bridgestone Arena. "I was getting some chances, they just hadn't gone in. Hopefully that will be a little monkey off the back and I can get going now."

Martin Erat started the play by stripping Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and then he sent a pass to Sergei Kostitsyn, who was alone in front of goaltender Mike Smith. Kostitsyn one-touched the puck to Fisher, who probably was in a less enviable scoring position.

When Fisher tried to send the puck back to Kostitsyn, it deflected off Smith's outstretched stick and knuckled over his right shoulder into the net.

"He kind of had his back turned so he was in a different position," Fisher said. "He gave it to me right away and I was just trying to go back to him back door and got a lucky bounce. I'll take it. It usually evens itself out. Some you think you should score and you don't, and others you just get lucky. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Added Erat: "With Sergei, I'm not surprised with anything. I get used to it. He made the great play and it ends in up the net. That's most important. ... Mike does a lot of good things. It is not all about the scoring. In the playoffs, you've got guys who are going to score. Third-line, fourth-line guys are going to score, but it is all about the 60 minutes and Mike puts the effort every night on the ice."

Fisher's playoff drought dated back to the middle of the first round of last year's playoffs. He went without a goal in the Predators' second-round loss to the Vancouver Canucks and didn't have one in the first seven games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There were some extenuating circumstances last year, however. While Fisher scored three goals in the first three games against Anaheim in the opening round, he played the entire postseason with an ailing shoulder -- an injury that needed surgery to correct in the offseason.

"I wasn't able to be physical as I wanted to, and I wasn't able to have that same impact," Fisher said. "At the same time, I was able to play, but definitely I feel much better this year. Especially in the last half, it has been much stronger and the physical part of the game has been much better.

"It was an ongoing thing I had been dealing with for quite a long time. I had just lost a lot of strength and wasn't able to do certain things, especially physically, defensively and use it the way I wanted to. I'm obviously glad I got it done."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 8:58 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Preds dress Halischuk and Tootoo

NASHVILLE - Wings Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo took the spots in the lineup for suspended Predators Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn on Wednesday for Game 3 of Nashville's Western Conference Semifinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Predators announced on Tuesday that Radulov and Kostitsyn, who lead them, respectively, with six and four points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, would sit out for a violation of team rules.

Tootoo has 37 playoff games under his belt in his career -- all with Nashville -- but only one this postseason. A hard-hitting right wing who brings energy, he skated in warmups with fourth-line center Paul Gaustad and Halischuk on the left. Halischuk has played in three games this postseason, all in the previous round against Detroit. He has an assist and a plus-1 rating but has not played more than 6:50 in a game. Last year, Halischuk, 23, scored an overtime goal against Vancouver in the conference semis.

Rookie Craig Smith was the other player in consideration for a lineup spot on Wednesday.

Predators coach Barry Trotz elected to juggle his lines - except for the first one -- entering the game with his team down 0-2 in the series. Patric Hornqvist, the team's leading goal-scorer during the regular season with 27, moved up from the third line to the second, taking Radulov's spot with center David Legwand and rookie left wing Gabriel Bourque.

The third line was Colin Wilson, making his second appearance of the postseason and his second straight, at left wing with Nick Spaling at center and Brandon Yip at right wing. Wilson and Yip were teammates at Boston University.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 4:22 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Coyotes expect energy, desperation from Predators

NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes have an opportunity to strengthen their hold on this Western Conference Semifinal series, and their opponent is going to be without its leading point producer and co-leader in goals during the playoffs.

Yet they are bracing for a stern test from the Nashville Predators, even if they will be without Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn.

"You look at what those guys did before [Radulov and Kostitsyn] got there, and they were a great team before," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "I think those guys made them even better, but it is not like they were struggling along beforehand. ... If it is coming home to my building, you're going to come out flying. We expect that, and we have to be ready for that. We can't sit back and wait for it. We have to go after it ourselves."

Added Coyotes forward Boyd Gordon: "They've got a great hockey team and we expect them to respond. We expect them to come out hard, and it is a tough building to play in. In a series, the momentum can change pretty quickly. We're aware of that and tonight is a big one for us."

The Predators would be desperate even if Radulov and Kostitsyn were not suspended for a violation of team rules. Teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit three times in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sure, Philadelphia did it two years ago, but that hasn't stopped clubs from viewing a Game 3 when down 2-0 in a series as a must-win.

Even without Radulov and Kostitsyn, the Predators aren't likely to want for effort. Adding a guy like Jordin Tootoo to the lineup could also add an extra dash of spice for what should be an electric atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena.

"I don't know if we're going to expect too much different from them," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said. "They are a hard-working team. That's just the way that they play. Like us, they have some skill guys but they have a lot of guys who work hard and it doesn't matter who is the in lineup."

Added Gordon: "They're a hard-working team. They've got a few key guys out, but they have great depth up front and they're down 2-0. We know we're going to have to match their sense of urgency. We want to build on Game 2. I think we played pretty well, so we want to keep building on that."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 4:14 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Coyotes aiming to improve road playoff record to 4-0

NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes were a solid road team during the regular season, winning 20 times away from Jobing.com Arena.

Like other teams around the NHL, they have found even more success in the postseason while donning the white sweaters. Phoenix will try to win for the fourth time in as many tries away from home in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Coyotes face the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday in Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinal series.

"Our game is similar. We don't change a lot home or on the road. I think we're very competitive in both areas," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Our group is very focused on how we play, and we take in where we play after that. It is pretty much the same game for us, home or on the road."

The Coyotes went to Chicago and won three times at United Center in the first round of the playoffs. Two were won in overtime on Mikael Boedker goals, but Phoenix also posted a 4-0 win in the clinching Game 6 at "The Madhouse on Madison."

Chicago was 27-8-6 at home during the regular season, but the Coyotes prevailed each time.

"We've been opportunistic," Tippett said. "There were a couple of games, two game in Chicago, that could have gone either way. Boedker was opportunistic in getting a couple of overtime goals.

"I think you've seen that throughout the playoffs this year. I don't know how much home-ice advantage has really been an advantage. I think it can be late in a series. If we're going to close out a series in Game 7, I'd certainly rather be at home."

Tippett is right -- home-ice hasn't been much of an "advantage" during this postseason. The road team is 34-22 after New Jersey defeated Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Pacific Division teams are 9-2 on the road, including three wins in Vancouver, three in Chicago and three in St. Louis.

Being at home for Game 7 wasn't even much of a help in the first round -- two of the three winner-take-all showdowns were won by the team in white.

"We had good road success until the last two games," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz, whose team went to Detroit, which had the best home record in the League this season, and swept Games 3 and 4 in the opening round. "I think it is just your group against the world. You're going into the lion's den all the time. It keeps you patient, keeps you focused."


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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:02 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Smith, Tootoo appear likely to join Predators lineup


NASHVILLE -- Predators coach Barry Trotz wouldn't say who will replace suspended forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, but during the team's morning skate Wednesday before a critical Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinal series it looked like Craig Smith and Jordin Tootoo will be in the lineup as the team tries to avoid falling behind 3-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Radulov and Kostitsyn are suspended for this game because of a violation of team rules. Smith has played two postseason games for the Predators -- Game 5 against Detroit in the first-round clincher and Game 1 of this series. Tootoo played once, in Game 3 against the Red Wings.

"I'm not going to say I'm going to be a savior. This is a team effort," Tootoo said. "Part of my game is bringing the physicality and the energy. Maybe that is what we need this time, is a little spark. I know whoever is in the lineup is going to get the job done, and that is part of being a team. You rely on each other."

Added Trotz: "We just have to get back to our game tonight. The guys who are out -- Andrei and [Radulov] -- they weren't with us for 65 games or so. Guys that are going in have been together, so guys have been, be it a Craig Smith, has been on the power play. We've had other guys do it, like [Colin] Wilson, Smith, [Brandon] Yip. ... I think the depth makes it a little easier to recover. In the past, we've had some injuries that really threw us off and we couldn't recover from them."

Matt Halischuk, who hasn't played in three games, would also be an option for the Predators. The team has been carrying several extra forwards since trading for Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad before the trade deadline, and Radulov's late-season return from Russia crowded the mix even more.

Smith played 72 games during the season, finishing with 14 goals and 36 points. Wilson played 68 contests and had 35 points, but he was scratched for the first six games of this postseason.

"It makes it tough, but it is pretty competitive," Smith said. "The guys are coming in and if you've been here the whole year it was tough to keep your spot, but in the end it is what's best for the team. The 20 guys that they pick is what you have to feel is right, and you just have to go with it."

Patric Hornqvist will move up into the top six to replace Radulov, while Smith or Wilson could end up on the third line in Kostitsyn's spot.

Trotz said the team did not find out about Radulov's and Kostitsyn's rule violations until after Game 2.

"We did not know before Game 2," Trotz said. "We found out after Game 2. Hell would have had to freeze over for them to play in Game 2 if we knew before."

Radulov is the team's leading scorer in this postseason with six points, and Kostitsyn is tied for the team lead with three goals. Still, Trotz said their absences from the lineup could extend beyond the suspension.

"Tonight, if we get it done, I would expect that I will probably go back with the same group," Trotz said. "They'd be the group that gets it done."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 2:27 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

NASHVILLE -- Here's how the lineups project for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semfinal series between the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators set for Wednesday night (9 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN) at Bridgestone Arena:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule
 
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Rostislav Klesla
David Schlemko - Adrian Aucoin
 
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
 
PREDATORS
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist

With forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn being held out of Game 3 due to disciplinary reasons, the Predators' third and fourth lines have some question marks. Nick Spaling centers the third line, flanked by Brandon Yip and either Colin Wilson or Craig Smith, depending on if the latter is in the lineup. Paul Gaustad centers the fourth line, with Jordin Tootoo on right wing and either Wilson or Matt Halischuk, the other possible lineup addition, on the left.
 
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Hal Gill
Kevin Klein - Francis Bouillon
 
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 6:31 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Lineup tweaks possible for both teams in Game 2

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Neither the Phoenix Coyotes nor the Nashville Predators will skate Sunday morning due to the 5 p.m. local time start for Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series. But both coaches hinted that lineup changes could be coming.

The Coyotes may make a change on defense with David Schlemko or Michael Stone subbing for either Adrian Aucoin or Derek Morris. Marc-Antoine is also an option up front.

Nashville could go with Colin Wilson, who has yet to make his first postseason appearance but took the pregame skate on Friday for the first time. He skated with the scratches on Saturday, but Predators coach Barry Trotz said Wilson would be the first player in if he makes a change, with Craig Smith (9:29 of ice in Game 1) most likely to be replaced.

Ray Whitney's goal 14:04 into overtime gave the Coyotes a 4-3 win in Game 1.

Here is what the lineups for the Coyotes and Predators could look like for Game 2 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS):

Predators

Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Alexander Radulov
Andrei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Yip - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith/Craig Wilson

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Kevin Klein
Francis Bouillon - Hal Gill

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Coyotes

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Lauri Korpikoski
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Shane Doan
Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris/David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin/Michael Stone


Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Postseason travel schedule has been easier on Preds

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Last year, the Nashville Predators earned plenty of frequent flyer miles in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After flying back and forth to Anaheim twice before taking out the Ducks in six games, Nashville had to go to the Western Conference's western-most outpost -- Vancouver -- twice. They fell in six games, but if the Predators had advanced, a couple of trips to San Jose would have been waiting.

This year is a little different. With home ice in the first round, Nashville needed only one quick flight to Detroit in dispatching the Red Wings in five games. And the Predators have had an entire week to rest and prepare for their Western Conference Semifinal series beginning in Phoenix tonight.

"Two hours in a plane instead of 20," Nashville center Mike Fisher said. "That's pretty nice."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said this season has been much less hectic on his team.

"Last year we battled right to the end to get in the playoffs," Trotz said. "Then we go back and forth to Anaheim, back and forth to Vancouver and if we ever got past the Canucks, we would have gotten San Jose and probably set a record for miles flown in one playoff year. It was pretty taxing."

"But we've had a lot of time off this year. We're fresh and we're healthy and we're ready to go."
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