The first meeting between these two teams was quite the goalie battle. Expect there’s just one problem.
Only one of the goalies showed up.
During the first encounter between these Western Conference foes, the Phoenix Coyotes blanked the Nashville Predators by a final score of 4-0. That was back on Jan. 28 in the desert. It was one of goaltender Pekka Rinne‘s worst games of the 2013 campaign, as he surrendered four goals off of 25 shot attempts. Ever since then, however, he has been brilliant, posting a 5-1-0 record to go along with a ridiculous 0.97 GAA. He has also posted two shutouts over the Predator’s last three contests.
The first matchup did not feature Mike Smith, Phoenix’s ace between the pipes. He was sidelined with a lower body injury, allowing backup Chad Johnson (no, not the exotic former wide receiver) to make a name for himself. He certainly did, earning his first career shutout in a 21-save effort. This time, however, Smith is healthy and will be in the cage. He has recorded a GAA of 2.06 over the Coyotes’ last six games.
It’ll be the first meeting between these two netminders since Phoenix eliminated Nashville in last year’s playoffs.
Both goaltenders have been the sole reasons that their respective hockey clubs are currently holding records above .500. Smith has to be sharp because the Coyotes lack offensive scoring depth. Rinne must be on his game for the same reason, not to mention Patric Hornqvist is still sidelined with a knee injury and Shea Weber hasn’t been himself, posting just one point through 13 contests.
Offenses have struggled between these two clubs. Nashville currently ranks dead last with just 1.77 goals per game. Phoenix is better, but not great by any means, ranking 20th (2.62 per). Expect this to be a low-scoring affair, in which both stud goaltenders will have a chance to win it for their team.