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Coyotes, Predators aim to get back on track

by John Kreiser

COYOTES (46-23-5) at PREDTORS (42-27-5)

Last 10
-- Phoenix 9-1-0; Nashville 7-3-0

Season series -- The teams are meeting for the third time this season, with Nashville still looking for its first victory. Phoenix won 4-2 at home on Jan. 21 and 1-0 in a shootout on Feb. 2, with defenseman Adrian Aucoin getting the deciding goal in the 10th round on the first attempt of his career.

Big story -- All good things have to come to an end, and so it was for both the Coyotes and Predators on Tuesday. Phoenix saw its nine-game winning streak end with a 2-0 loss at Chicago; combined with San Jose's 4-1 win at Minnesota, the Coyotes fell one point behind San Jose for the Pacific Division lead. The Predators had won six in a row before Dallas came to town and left with a 3-1 victory despite getting only 14 shots on Pekka Rinne.

Team Scope:

Coyotes -- The Coyotes did a lot of things right in Chicago -- except score. That was enough to end their franchise record-tying nine-game winning streak and drop them to second place in their division. Still, the nine-game streak has the 'Yotes thinking of more than just breaking a playoff drought that extends back to 2002.

"Teams like Chicago and San Jose, a month ago they were out of reach for us, so we know that we've played some good hockey," Aucoin said.

Predators -- Despite their six-game winning streak, the Predators have little wiggle room as they try to avoid being the odd man out in a five-way scramble for the last four spots in the Western Conference playoff race. Against Dallas, they paid for a third-period lapse that saw the Stars score twice in 30 seconds and Rinne make just 11 saves.

"You have to have a short-term memory, and the biggest game of the year is coming up now," said coach Barry Trotz, who led Nashville to the third-longest winning streak in its history.

Who's hot -- Despite Tuesday's loss, Rinne is 6-1-0 with three shutouts in his last seven games. He is 8-2-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average, .927 save percentage in 10 games this month.

Injury report -- Phoenix center Robert Lang hasn't played since March 4 due to a lower-body injury. … Nashville captain Jason Arnott may miss a third consecutive game with an upper-body injury. That would be a loss for the Predators -- Arnott has 54 points in 54 career games against the Coyotes. Forward Joel Ward (upper-body injury) didn't play Tuesday and is likely to sit this one out as well.

Stat pack -- Aucoin, who had never taken a shootout try before the Coyotes' last trip to Nashville, is 5-for-5 -- and all five goals have been game-deciders. Phoenix has just five losses in its last 22 games, but three of those defeats were shutouts. … Nashville is 0-for-11 on the power play in its last three games and has scored just once goal in each of its last two -- the Predators beat Columbus 1-0 in OT on Saturday night.

Puck drop -- The Coyotes are all but assured of making the playoffs for the first time since '02; they're playing for the top spot in the Pacific Division and a higher seed in the West. The Predators have no such assurance -- they'll need every points they can get to return to the postseason after missing in 2008-09. But Nashville will have to show more desperation than it did against Dallas in order to beat one of the NHL's stingiest teams.

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