PREDATORS (6-5-1) at COYOTES (8-3-2)
TV: NHLN-CA, FS-TN, FS-A
Last 10: Nashville 6-3-1; Phoenix 7-1-2
Season series: This is the first of three meetings between the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes. Each team recorded a shutout in its home arena last season before the Coyotes won the rubber game 7-4 as Radim Vrbata scored twice in a six-goal first period for the visitors.
Big story: Never much of an offensive powerhouse in seasons past, Phoenix is tied for fourth in the NHL entering Thursday's action at 3.31 goals per game. Nashville averages 1.92 goals, 27th in the League. The Coyotes have needed that extra punch to win with consistency, as they're allowing three goals per game, but they got a lights-out performance from Mike Smith in a 3-1 win Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.
Predators: This is the start of a seven-game road trip for Nashville, which split a pair at home last week after learning franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne will miss about a month after an infection developed in his surgically repaired hip.
Carter Hutton stepped in and backstopped an overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, but the Predators ran into a buzzsaw Saturday in the St. Louis Blues. Nick Spaling's shorthanded goal early in the third period brought the Predators within 3-1, but Hutton allowed five goals on 26 shots and ended up getting pulled in a 6-1 loss.
"You never want to get pulled," Hutton said in The Tennessean. "That's the thing with being a goalie. You want to be in there and you want to win, but at the same time it's one game. Whether I gave up 12 or whatever, it's just one loss, life goes on, the sun is going to come up tomorrow."
Coyotes: Even though Phoenix pulled out a 5-4 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, coach Dave Tippett was anything but pleased with the defensive effort, especially given the Coyotes had allowed seven goals the game before that in a loss to the Kings in Los Angeles.
The rematch against L.A. at Jobing.com Arena saw the Coyotes under siege again, but thanks to Smith it didn't show in the final score. Smith stopped 41 of 42 shots and Kyle Chipchura had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight with the Kings' Daniel Carcillo.
"There were lots of shots at the net, but I thought we just competed harder," Tippett said. "We were harder in front of our net; we got an 'A' game from Smitty and some timely scoring. It was a good two points."
Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has one goal and six assists during a four-game point streak. Forward Andy Miele, who won the Hobey Baker at Miami University of Ohio in 2011, had two assists Tuesday in his season debut.
Injury report: Rinne is out, but Nashville is set to get defenseman Roman Josi (concussion) back in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4. … Phoenix forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) will come off injured reserve and return to the lineup, but defensemen Zbynek Michalek and David Schlemko are banged-up and game-time decisions. Forward Jeff Halpern (upper body) and defenseman Rostislav Klesla (lower body) are day-to-day. Forward Martin Hanzal is serving the second game of a two-game suspension.
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