A perfect three-game homestand has the surprising Arizona Coyotes surging into a five-game road trip, powered by timely scoring and resurgent goaltending.
It's been almost the exact opposite for the Nashville Predators' during their recent slide, with offense nearly nonexistent and the defense struggling to keep games close.
The Coyotes can win four in a row for the first time since early in the 2013-14 season when they try to send the Predators to their third straight loss and sixth in seven games Tuesday night.
Arizona (13-9-1) already has more than half of its win total of last season as the club's rebuilding project has been yielding quick results. With youngsters Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Tobias Rieder developing into reliable scoring options, the Coyotes find themselves near the top of the Pacific Division.
The club also relies on several key veterans, and one of them sparked a 4-3 victory over Ottawa on Saturday. Mikkel Boedker recorded a hat trick to help Arizona close out its three-games-in-four-nights homestand without a loss.
''He's developed into a real good player,'' coach Dave Tippett said of the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Coyotes. ''The biggest thing for him is now that consistency is there. We rely on him in so many parts of our game right now. When he capitalizes, it enhances his value, but right now he's an important player for us.''
Dustin Jeffrey, recalled from Springfield of the AHL on Tuesday with captain Shane Doan sidelined due to a lower-body injury, scored on a second-period breakaway for his first goal of the season.
“You just try to come in and make an impression,” Jeffrey told the team's official website about his opportunity. “Tonight, to be able to contribute to a team win is all you can ask for.”
The challenge for Arizona is to play better on this trip after it went 1-3-0 on the road swing that preceded its homestand. The Coyotes had played well away from home prior to that trip, going 6-2-1.
Arizona has dropped three in a row and four of five in Nashville, but might be catching the Predators (12-7-4) at the right time to end those struggles. Nashville has scored six goals during its 1-4-1 slump, with all of those coming after the club was shut out in the first three games of the stretch.
They couldn't get much going against Buffalo on Saturday, giving up four consecutive goals and losing 4-1 at home. The Predators completed a stretch of six games in nine days, the first five of which came on the road.
“I thought we could've had more gas … the energy, maybe the second period had something to do with that,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “The road trip lasted until tonight, whatever it is – it was a long trip and I'm not making any excuses, but I think we can play at a higher tempo. I think that's when we're at our best, and I think we had more to push in that area tonight.”
Along with the lack of scoring, penalties have hurt Nashville in the past five contests. Opponents are 6 for 16 in that span after the Sabres went 2 for 4, converting twice on Viktor Arvidsson's five-minute major for cross-checking in the second period.
Arizona's Mike Smith, expected to return to the net after Anders Lindback made 35 saves Saturday, has gone 6-2-0 with a 2.40 goals-against average in eight starts since posting a 4.55 mark in his previous seven.
Expected Nashville starter Pekka Rinne has a 3.26 GAA in his last four outings. He's recorded a 1.21 mark in his past four against the Coyotes.
- Anders Lindback
- Anthony Duclair
- Arizona Coyotes
- Dustin Jeffrey
- Max Domi
- Mikkel Boedker
- Shane Doan
- Tobias Rieder