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Western Road Trip Journal: Valley of the Sun

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

Perhaps some sunshine did the trick.

It wasn't pretty for the entire evening, but the Nashville Predators defeated the Arizona Coyotes in overtime by a 2-1 final on Monday night, bringing an end to the Preds skid and placing them atop the NHL standings once more with 91 points.

That's rather impressive, considering the Predators had lost six-consecutive games in regulation and were just 2-7-1 in their last 10 heading into Monday's contest. Even with those numbers, their record was, and still is, good enough for first in the League.

Roughly 10 minutes after James Neal beat Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue at 2:45 of the overtime session, the sentiment around the Preds locker room consisted of a sense of relief and an eagerness to continue building off the victory moving forward on the trip. As Neal acknowledged, "You can't pull out of it overnight, but you've got to start with a win and build off that."

The win over the Coyotes was certainly a starting point. The second test of the trip comes Thursday in San Jose.

But back to the sunshine. There's plenty of it in the Valley of the Sun. Personally, I had never been to Arizona until the Predators landed in the Grand Canyon State on Sunday afternoon. As you can probably imagine, the landscape differs just a tad from the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee.

It's one thing to see it in the movies, but the mixture of palm trees, cacti (of which I think are fascinating specimens), mountains and never-ending blue sky make for quite the backdrop. Everything, from our hotel to homes, businesses, restaurants and shopping centers all seem to have that rustic, Southwestern flare about them.

Gila River Arena, home of the Coyotes (and a building that the Preds opened in October of 2003), is a great venue and is parked right alongside University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, Super Bowl XLIX and the on-stage debut of "Left Shark." It's always enticing to head to other NHL barns and see how different teams do things, both with the in-game presentation and the atmosphere in the building. There was plenty of howling throughout the evening, rest assured, but No. 18 in white ended that.

The Preds have the day off on Tuesday, a perfect opportunity for some R&R in Arizona before practice Wednesday and then a flight to California. Until then, I'll keep snapping cactus photos.

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