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Coyotes see Predators' style as one to emulate

Wednesday, 11.03.2010 / 4:17 PM / NHL Insider

By Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

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Coyotes see Predators' style as one to emulate
Even though the Predators haven't been clicking offensively, they're still off to a strong start thanks to sticking to their defensive system -- something the struggling Coyotes can learn from.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For all the offensive problems the Phoenix Coyotes have endured to start the season, coach Dave Tippett knows that if his team had stayed true to its defensive system they would have enjoyed better results.

There is no better example of that than Wednesday's visitor to Jobing.com Arena.

Like the Coyotes, the Nashville Predators have scored just 23 goals in their first 10 games and their power play is among the worst in the League. But the Preds have stayed true to coach Barry Trotz's disciplined system and were rewarded with a 5-0-3 start. Nashville has slipped a bit of late and struggled in Detroit on Saturday -- allowing five goals in the first of a stretch that will see them the Predators play nine of 10 games away from home.

But for a Phoenix team looking to rediscover its work ethic and realize the rewards, the Predators are Exhibit A.

"They are a hard-working team with very good goaltending that is going to fight for every inch of space on the ice," Tippett said. "You have to play hard, quick and fast against them because they aren't going to give you room to make mistakes. That's the way we are when we're at our best and we have to get back to that."

The Coyotes hope the return of Martin Hanzal and Derek Morris to the lineup -- giving them a healthy roster for the first time this season -- will help. Hanzal missed the last six games with an upper-body injury and his return allows Tippett to reset his top-six forwards and penalty-killing units. Morris has missed three of the first 10 games as well, including Saturday's 3-0 home loss to Tampa in which Phoenix didn't muster many scoring chances.

Captain Shane Doan, Ray Whitney and Wojtek Wolski, who is back in the lineup after sitting out the last two as a healthy scratch, are among six Coyote forwards without a goal in the month of October. Whitney and Radim Vrbata, who has just 1 goal in his last nine games, will skate with Hanzal.

"I've never had an injury so early in the season, it's a new thing for me," Hanzal said. "I'm excited to get back in the lineup and help out."
"They are a hard-working team with very good goaltending that is going to fight for every inch of space on the ice.  You have to play hard, quick and fast against them because they aren't going to give you room to make mistakes."                     -- Coyotes' coach Dave Tippett on the Predators
The Coyotes have definitely missed center Matthew Lombardi, who left for Nashville as a free agent over the summer. But Lombardi has played only two games this season due to a concussion and remains out of the lineup, along with Ryan Suter (leg) and Martin Erat (upper body). Marcel Goc will return from a shoulder injury to play for the first time since Oct. 16.

Nashville relies on strong goaltending and starter Pekka Rinne is especially hard on the Coyotes, going 4-1-1 against Phoenix for his career with a 1.46 goals-against average, a .945 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. Former Predator Scottie Upshall remembers his last game against Nashville -- he collected a first career hat trick in a win last Jan. 21 in Glendale. One week later, Upshall's season was ended by a knee injury.
Quote of the Day

You could see out there that everybody was willing to compete, to sacrifice, even blocking shots to the end. Even in the third when we were up 5-0, guys were still working hard and blocking shots That's a nice feeling also for the future.

— Flames goalie Jonas Hiller after his team's 5-0 win over Carolina
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