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Coyotes finish up homestand against Predators

by Brian Hunter /

PREDATORS (24-15-6) at COYOTES (23-14-9)


Last 10:
Nashville 7-3-0; Phoenix 6-2-2

Season series: Third of four meetings this season. Each team has won once on its home ice. The first hat trick of Ed Jovanovski's career led Phoenix to a 4-3 victory on Nov. 3, while Pekka Rinne sparked Nashville’s 3-0 shutout on Nov. 30 by stopping all 33 shots he faced.

Big story: The Coyotes are in line to follow up last season's surprise success story with a return trip to the playoffs, although this time around it's been more about the offense than the defense. Phoenix averaged 2.57 goals per game in 2009-10 while giving up 2.39, third lowest in the NHL -- this season the averages are 2.87 goals per game and 2.76 against.

Team Scope:

Predators: Third-period rallies were the story of Nashville's recent home-and-home with Central Division rival Chicago. The Predators trailed 2-0 after two periods at home on Saturday before coming back for a 3-2 shootout victory. They took a 3-2 lead in the rematch Sunday when J-P Dumont scored his second of the game 3:45 into the third, but the Blackhawks put the next four on the board to deal the Predators a 6-3 defeat.

"We stopped playing our game and they came at us pretty hard," Dumont said. "We took a penalty and they got the momentum back. It's just the kind of game that we let them take it away in the third.

Coyotes: This is the finale of a four-game homestand for Phoenix, which scored 11 goals in winning the first two handily over Toronto and Anaheim before suffering a 4-2 setback to San Jose on Monday afternoon. The Coyotes got both of their goals from defensemen -- veteran Derek Morris in the first period and 19-year-old rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the third. It was the first NHL goal for Ekman-Larsson, who has played in 30 games this season and has 10 points and a plus-3 rating.

"The guys were really happy for him," coach Dave Tippett said. "He's a young guy, a good guy in the locker room, and when you do get that first one -- he's kind of been around it a few times and hit a couple posts, so I think he's been taking some pretty good ribbing in the room. So it'll be good that he can get that one behind him and move on."

Who's hot: Predators captain Shea Weber has 3 goals and 10 assists during a nine-game points streak. ... Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has 1 goal and 5 assists during a four-game points streak. Lee Stempniak has 1 goal and 3 assists in the last two games.

Injury report: Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien is eligible to play after serving a two-game suspension. Fellow blueliner Francis Bouillon left Sunday's game with a lower-body injury and didn't return. Forward Marek Svatos has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. Forwards Matthew Lombardi (concussion), Steve Sullivan (lower body) and Cal O'Reilly (broken right fibula) are on injured reserve.

Jovanovski (lower body) and recently-acquired defenseman Michal Rozsival (bruised ribs) were out of the Phoenix lineup Monday along with forward Vernon Fiddler (upper body).

Stat pack: Patric Hornqvist, a 30-goal scorer for the Predators last season, once again leads the team with 13 but has gone five games without one since a stretch of 5 goals in four games. ... Ekman-Larsson now has a three-game points streak for the Coyotes, with an assist in each of the two games prior to Monday.

Puck drop: Phoenix started out 2011 on a 6-0-2 run and could have closed within two points of Pacific Division-leading Dallas with a win Monday.

"We play them a few more times this year and we have to find ways to win those games," captain Shane Doan said of San Jose. "Give them credit. They played well against us. Tonight Yans (Yandle) hit a post late in the game. We had another couple chances where they blocked a couple of shots that had a chance to go in. That's the way it goes."

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