Coyotes-Predators Preview

Pekka Rinne has led the way in the Nashville Predators’ first

two games, and he’s been spectacular in his career against the

Phoenix Coyotes.

He’s expected to start in goal Thursday night as the Predators

try for a second straight 3-0-0 start in their home opener.

Rinne went 33-22-9 with a 2.12 goals-against average in 2010-11,

including a 10-2-1 mark with a 2.14 GAA in his last 13 home

starts.

The Vezina Trophy finalist has stopped 63 of 67 shots in winning

his first two outings this season – road games against Columbus and

St. Louis in which the Predators were outshot both times.

“Two divisions opponents, too, going into their barn and

winning,” center David Legwand said.

Rinne’s 1.78 GAA against Phoenix (0-1-1) is his lowest against a

Western Conference opponent. He’s 6-3-1 against the Coyotes in 10

starts – 4-1-1 with a 1.30 GAA in six at home.

Expectations have been raised for Nashville, which won a playoff

series for the first time last season before losing in six games in

the second round to West champion Vancouver. The Predators are

looking to win their fifth straight home opener.

Legwand had two goals and two assists in a 4-2 victory over the

Blues on Saturday. One goal and both assists came on the power

play, on which Nashville has gone 3 for 7 this season.

Martin Erat missed Saturday’s contest after suffering an

upper-body injury the night before in a 3-2 win over the Blue

Jackets. It’s unclear if Erat, who tied for the team lead with 50

points last season, will return Thursday.

Phoenix is completing a season-opening three-game road stretch.

The Coyotes are hoping to avoid the franchise’s first winless

three-game start since 1988-89, when the team was based in

Winnipeg.

The Coyotes will be participating in a home opener for the third

time in as many games.

“Well you’re going into Nashville, and we knew this was going to

be a hard trip,” coach Dave Tippett said.

Phoenix fell 6-3 at San Jose on Saturday before turning in a

better effort in a 2-1 shootout loss to Dallas on Monday. The

Coyotes were 28 seconds from victory when the Stars’ Loui Eriksson

scored the tying goal in the third period.

“We played a much better game, that’s probably a game we

deserved a better fate,” Tippett said. “If we play like that, we’ll

get our amount of wins. I thought our guys really competed hard,

they did a lot of little things very well tonight. It’s too bad we

didn’t get the two points.”

Mike Smith, signed as a free agent from Tampa Bay, has started

Phoenix’s first two games. He is 3-1-0 with a 2.00 GAA in four

career starts against the Predators.

All four goals for the Coyotes have come on the power play in

seven chances. Nashville has yielded one power-play goal in 10

opportunities.

These teams split four meetings last season.