GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The line of Ray Whitney, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata and the goaltending of Mike Smith have been the major players in a three-game winning streak and a 4-0-1 run that the Phoenix Coyotes take into tonight's game with the Nashville at Jobing.com Arena.
But both ingredients could be missing against the Predators -- one scripted, the other unexpected.
Smith will get the night off after his 3-1 victory over the Avalanche in Colorado on Wednesday. Smith was in goal for the entire 4-0-1 run and allowed only 12 goals in the five games, improving his record to 5-2-1 for the season. Jason LaBarbera, who beat the Predators 5-2 in Nashville on Oct. 13, will get his third start of the season as the Coyotes face their first back-to-back situation of the season.
And while the Whitney-Hanzal-Vrbata line has produced 7 goals and 17 points in the last three games -- including 2 goals by Vrbata, 2 assists by Whitney and 1 helper by Hanzal against the Avalanche -- the trio might be broken up tonight due to injury. Hanzal appeared to suffer an injury late in Wednesday's game. The Coyotes had an optional skate Thursday, but Kyle Chipchura was summoned from AHL Portland and coach Dave Tippett said he would be in the lineup against the Predators, fueling speculation that Hanzal could be a scratch tonight.
Meanwhile, the Predators will get some regulars back in the lineup and have a happy goalie between the pipes.
Forwards Mike Fisher (upper-body injury) and Sergei Kostitsyn (lower-body injury) took part in the morning skate and are expected to return to the lineup against Phoenix for this opening game of a four-game Western road trip.
Goalie Pekka Rinne was given quite a 29th birthday present Thursday, signing a seven-year extension for $49 million, the richest contract in Predators history. Renne, who would have been a restricted free agent at the end of the season, is 5-4-2 so far this year with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He will start tonight against the Coyotes.