Predators open road swing in the desert

By Nicolino Dibenedetto
Stats Writer

GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) — The Nashville Predators hope to
snap a three-game slide and get back into playoff position when
they begin a four-game road trip.

Fortunately, they open the swing Saturday night against the
last-place Phoenix Coyotes.

The Predators (33-30-5) lost consecutive home games, falling 4-2
to the New York Rangers on Thursday after losing in 2-1 overtime
to Washington two nights prior. Those setbacks followed a 4-1
defeat at Philadelphia last Saturday, snapping a season-high
six-game winning streak.

Nashville is tied with Minnesota for ninth in the Western
Conference, one point behind Edmonton and Dallas, which are tied
for seventh. The Wild visit the Stars, while the Oilers face
conference-worst Colorado.

“We know how tight this is right now, how tight the races are,”
Predators left wing Steve Sullivan said Thursday.

The Predators have struggled as the visitor, losing three of
their last four and posting a 5-11-1 mark in the last 17.

“It’s just going to have to be a good road trip, plain and
simple,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We have to go on
the road and do something here.

“We are going to need total commitment from everybody
offensively and defensively with the puck. We are going to have
to be good at the draws, we are going to have to be good on
special teams.”

Nashville’s power play converts only 14.1 percent of the time,
ranking among the worst in the NHL. However, the club’s
penalty-killing unit is third in the league with an 84.7 percent
success rate. It’s only allowed one goal in the last 29
attempts over 10 games.

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The Predators are hoping to have Jason Arnott back after he sat
out Thursday’s loss with an upper-body injury. The center, who
leads the team with 27 goals – eight on the power play – and is
second with 49 points suffered the injury Tuesday when he was
hit by the Capitals’ Shaone Morrisonn.

Arnott has seven goals and 18 points in his last 13 games
against Phoenix (28-34-6), including one goal in each of the
last two meetings.

The Predators are 2-1-0 against the Coyotes this season, but
lost 2-1 on Dec. 18 in the only matchup at Arena.

Phoenix, last in the Pacific Division, is 4-15-1 in its last 20
games. The club ended a five-game road trip by losing for the
fourth time in a row, 5-2 at New Jersey on Thursday. The
Coyotes opened that swing with promise, beating East-leading
Boston 2-1 on March 5.

“We’re looking forward to going home,” Coyotes center Steve
Reinprecht told the team’s official Web site. “It’s been a long
trip and it’s been an emotional trip. We’ve got to reload.”

The Coyotes have won only once in eight home games, a 4-3
shootout victory over Atlanta on February 19.

Shane Doan, the captain and team leader with 25 goals and 57
points, has two goals and one assist in the last three games
after being held without a point in the previous four, including
a 4-1 loss at Nashville on February 26. The right wing hasn’t
managed a point in three season meetings with the Predators.