Predators-Coyotes Preview

BY foxsports • January 9, 2016

Ryan Johansen made an immediate contribution in his initial game with the Nashville Predators but couldn't end his new team's recent woes singlehandedly.

The Predators will try again when they face an opponent they've dominated recently on Saturday night, but the Arizona Coyotes have been playing some of their best hockey of late.

Nashville (19-15-7) acquired Johansen from Columbus on Wednesday for defenseman Seth Jones in a swap of former top-five draft picks. The forward scored the opening goal and had an assist in his first contest for the Predators on Friday, but Colorado took command in the third period for a 5-3 win.

"It's definitely nice to get something early like that. Hopefully, I can use that as some confidence and move forward in shooting the puck," said Johansen, who scored his first goal in 16 games. "It's too bad we couldn't find a way to win this one. It would have been a lot cooler."

Nashville dropped to 1-3-1 in its last five after its second straight loss. The Predators have lost three in a row twice this season, most recently Dec. 12-17, but will next face a team it has beaten six consecutive times.

Nashville won 5-2 at home against the Coyotes (20-16-4) in the latest meeting Dec. 1. Filip Forsberg scored two of the Predators' four goals in a third-period rally.

Arizona, however, would appear in prime form to end its lengthy skid to Nashville. The Coyotes are 6-1-2 in their last nine and 3-0-1 in their past four with a 2-1 victory in Calgary on Thursday.

Martin Hanzal tallied the tiebreaking goal early in the third period in his first game since Dec. 19, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his fifth in nine contests. Hanzal had missed the previous seven games because of a lower-body injury.

"He's a big body out there. You don't realize how much you miss him until he comes back," coach Dave Tippett said. "He solidifies our center ice. It's certainly good to have him back."

In the opener to a seven-game homestand, Tippett's team will seek to win three in a row for the first time since Nov. 25-28. Nashville is 1-4-1 in its last six road games.

The Predators might start backup goaltender Carter Hutton after Pekka Rinne was in net for Friday's loss. Hutton, 3-1-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average in five starts this season, lost in a shootout in his only matchup with Arizona on Oct. 31, 2013.

Rinne is 5-0-0 with a 1.37 GAA and a shutout in his last five games against the Coyotes and that could tempt coach Peter Laviolette to leave him in. Rinne has only started once this season on consecutive days, allowing four goals on 27 shots in a 4-0 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 21.

Tippett, meanwhile, is expected to give Louis Domingue his fifth consecutive start. Domingue lost 2-1 in overtime to Nashville in his lone matchup March 9, making 38 saves.

James Neal scored the winning goal in that game, among his four in his last four matchups, but he doesn't have a point in a season-worst five consecutive contests. Johansen has three goals and two assists in his last four games against Arizona.

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