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Game Day: Preds vs. Coyotes

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(41-19-7) Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes (21-38-7)
  9 P.M. | Gila River Arena
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game

In the midst of a six-game skid, the Nashville Predators are set to begin a four-game road trip in the Valley of the Sun tonight as they face the Arizona Coyotes for the third and final time this season. The Preds are 2-0-0 against the Coyotes this season, winning in a shootout back in October in Nashville and then putting together a 5-1 victory in December in Glendale.

The current excursion, all against Pacific Division opponents spanning seven days, is the team’s second-longest of the season (the first being a six-game, 13-day trip for the CMA Awards in October and November 2014), and makes room for the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament’s visit to Bridgestone Arena.

With his assist on Saturday versus the Jets, forward Mike Ribeiro took control of the Preds’ team points lead (13g-41a-54pts). Ribeiro’s 54 points are the most he has tallied since 2011-12 with Dallas (18g-45a-63pts, 74gp). The Montreal native’s 41 assists this season, also lead the team and put him in a tie for eighth overall in the NHL.

With 41 helpers, Ribeiro is two shy of typing Cliff Ronning for second-most assists in a season by a Preds’ center (43, 2000-01) and three from tying Jason Arnott for the top spot (44, 2007-08). With 15 games left to play in the regular season, Ribeiro is only 13 assists from tying Paul Kariya for most assists in franchise history in a campaign (54, 2005-06).

Ryan Ellis, who missed 24 games due to an injury sustained on Jan. 8 versus Dallas, tied his career high with a goal on Saturday against Winnipeg (6, set in 2013-14). Prior to his injury, Ellis had tallied points in three-consecutive games (2g-3a); in his three games since returning, Ellis has tallied two points (1g-1a).

On the season, the Hamilton, Ont., native has 20 points (6g-14a) in 43 games played. The mark is seven points from the career-high of 27 (6g-21a) that he set in 80 games played in 2013-14. During 2013-14, Ellis had just 11 points (1g-10a) through his first 43 games played.

With an assist on Thursday versus the Islanders, Roman Josi improved his season point total to 47 (11g-36a), a career-high mark that is first among Preds defensemen and third among all Preds skaters. Josi’s 47 points put him sixth among all League blueliners, but just three shy of the leaders' point totals (Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, 50 points). Josi, along with defense partner Shea Weber, have a combined 90 points this season (26g-64a), the most of any defensive duo in the NHL.
Pekka Rinne is second in the NHL with 35 wins this season and is in the Top Five in both save percentage (.926) and goals-against average (2.13). Rinne is the only goaltender to have played 11 or more overtime frames and maintain a 1.000 save percentage and a 0.00 goals-against average (12 overtimes played, 27 saves).

Among rookies, Filip Forsberg maintains the top spot in assists (32), points (52), power-play goals (tied, 5), power-play assists (12), power-play points (17) and shots on goal (204). Forsberg, who is tied for Preds lead in goals (21), is second among League rookie forwards in average time on ice (17:10).

Arizona is led on offense by forward Sam Gagner and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson each with 32 points to their name. Ekman-Larsson also leads the club in goals with 17 on the campaign. Longtime Captain Shane Doan has 12 goals and 30 points while former Preds forward Martin Erat has 29 points for the Coyotes.

Mike Smith has been in net for the vast majority of Arizona's games this season, going 11-32-5 with a 3.25 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage. The Coyotes are 1-4-0 in their last five and 10-20-2 at home this season.

All-time, Nashville is 30-24-(2)-4 against the Coyotes and 12-4-(0)-3 as the visiting squad. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, the Preds have taken home points in five of seven matchups in Arizona (4-2-1).

Pregame Update:

The Preds did not hold a morning skate ahead of tonight's game against the Coyotes. Earlier in the day, the club recalled forward Viktor Stalberg from Milwaukee and activated defenseman Anton Volchenkov from injured reserve (details here). Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said that the moves do not necessarily mean that Stalberg and/or Volchenkov will immediately enter the lineup, but rather gives the team other options if necessary.

Peter Laviolette on the play of Gabriel Bourque, Paul Gaustad and Taylor Beck on the fourth line as of late:

“They’ve been our most noticeable line in my opinion. Not just form a defensive point of view, but a hard-working point of view, just visible energy that they bring to the ice. They’re dogging pucks, they’re in the offensive zone, they’re playing against other teams’ best lines and they’re doing that in the offensive zone, which is good, because the top lines aren’t in our end. They’ve done a really nice job, and I think they have been one of our most consistent, most noticeable lines in the last two games.”

Gabriel Bourque on finding the positives in the last two games:

“I think we've been playing more physically, offensively we're getting more shots, and we're having more fun on the ice too. The four games before the last two were kind of tough, but I think the last couple games, we've [begun to] get the momentum back and just get our mojo back."
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