The Coyotes broke through with a huge 3-0 shutout of San Jose on Saturday night, but their 1-4-1 start to March has left them fighting three points behind Dallas in the Pacific Division standings and in a battle with five other teams separated by three points for the final two playoff spots.
Phoenix has won two of the three meetings with Nashville this season -- in keeping with its track record of playing the top teams tough this season. A win would move the Coyotes within a point of the idle Stars and keep them in seventh place. And with a tough four-game game road trip to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Dallas beginning on Wednesday, the last game of this three-game homestand looms large.
Mike Smith will be back in goal after recording his fifth shutout of the season against the Sharks and looking more like the League's First Star of February than the one that struggled for a week. But the Coyotes won't have center Martin Hanzal (upper body) for a second straight game, and that will play havoc with the forward lines. Boyd Gordon stepped up with a big game against the Sharks and will be counted on again with Daymond Langkow struggling and Kyle Chipchura still out of the lineup.
With defensemen Derek Morris and David Schlemko are skating but still not ready to return, the Coyotes have found rookie Michael Stone up to the task. Stone had his first NHL goal and set up Mikkel Boedker's goal against the Sharks and, just eight games into his NHL career, is impressing coach Dave Tippett with his poise.
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Radim Vrbata
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Mikkel Boedker - Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Gilbert Brule
Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Colin Wilson - Nick Spaling - Jordin Tootoo
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Matt Halischuk
Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Roman Josi - Hal Gill
Francis Bouillon - Ryan Ellis