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Post-Game Musings: at Phoenix

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
The Preds opened their four-game West Coast road trip with a wild 5-4 shootout win in Phoenix. Nashville never trailed in the game, owning leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 4-2, but saw Phoenix rally each time to tie the score and ultimately force overtime.

Both teams had several chances in the OT frame, but were unable to convert, sending the game to a shootout. Pekka Rinne denied all three Coyotes shooters, starting with Ray Whitney to open the shootout. After Andrei Kostitsyn scored on Nashville's first attempt, Rinne stopped Radim Vrbata and Mikkel Boedker to seal the two points for the Preds.

With the win, Nashville moves to 89 points, just two points behind No. 4 seed Detroit and seven points ahead of No. 6 seed Chicago. The Preds also hold a 12 point advantage over the playoff cut line with all teams having fewer than 15 games remaining in the regular season.

Now the Preds have two days off before hitting up California for three games in four days this weekend.

On to the musings...

The Big Line Keeps Producing: Nashville’s top offensive line of Mike Fisher centering Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn was on the ice for the team’s first three goals scored with the trio combining for two goals, four assists, and a +6 plus/minus rating. Over the last five games, the trio have combined to post eight goals, eight assists, and a +17 plus/minus rating. And in the 19 games since the NHL All-Star Break, the trio have combined to produce 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points.

Ready Reserve: Defenseman Jack Hillen entered the lineup as a late injury replacement for Roman Josi, who suffered an upper body injury late in Saturday’s game against Detroit, and skated 17:37 with two shots on goal and a +1 plus/minus rating. It was just Hillen’s sixth appearance since the All-Star Break, but the veteran defenseman has been productive when called upon with a “plus” plus/minus rating in five of the six games (earning an “even” rating the other appearance). His play has allowed the Preds to weather various injuries along the back end this season and still remain high in Western Conference standings.

AK Again: Andrei Kostitsyn scored the shootout winner for the Preds tonight, his second consecutive game-winner for the Preds. Saturday against Detroit, he scored the GWG on the power-play. Though held scoreless tonight, Andrei Kostitsyn created a handful of quality scoring chances, including a great chance with around 1:40 left in regulation on a rush with Ryan Suter and another dangerous rush midway through overtime with Nick Spaling. In six games since being acquired at the Trade Deadline, Andrei has 3 goals (one game winner), 3 assists, and 1 shootout winner.

Bonus Thought: I'm not a huge fan of the "hits" stat -- it doesn't always give a complete picture of toughness or even effectiveness on the forecheck -- but Jordin Tootoo registered 6 hits tonight, an impressive number for a road player. Tootoo now has 14 hits over his last three games, a very positive sign that he's --- to borrow a theme Coach Trotz touched on late last week --- re-focusing on his core identity as a hockey player. That is another important element to the Preds roster heading into any playoff series.

Andrei Kostitsyn on tonight's game
"Now I feel more comfortable than the first couple of games (with Nashville). This is how I play, I try to shoot the puck and score.... We had a couple of mistakes in the third period and then had to comeback and win in the shootout."

1) NSH F Martin Erat – 1g-2a, +3; scored game’s opening goal
2) PHX D Oliver Ekman-Larsson – 1g-1a, +3, 26:01 time on ice
3) PHX F Daymond Langkow – 1g-1a, +1; won 13-of-20 faceoffs

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