Game No. 82 has arrived, and the Nashville Predators will close out the 2021-22 regular season tonight in Arizona by facing the Coyotes at Gila River Arena. This evening’s contest is the third and final meeting between the Preds and Yotes this season; Nashville has two wins thus far. Tonight also marks the final game at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
The Predators started their final back-to-back set of the season with a thrilling comeback win over the Avalanche last night in Colorado – a 5-4 victory in a shootout. Between that outing and an intense, physical contest against Calgary earlier in the week, the Preds have gotten their share of playoff-style meetings as of late.
Now, they’ll turn their attention to one final tune-up before the postseason arrives early next week with the Predators controlling their Wild Card destiny.
“There’s potential that we could play Calgary and there’s potential that we could play Colorado, so I think it’s probably nice for both teams,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said following Thursday’s win. “The Calgary game was very intense; the Colorado game tonight was very intense. But each team gets a chance to see each other prior to a possible matchup. But when you’re playing teams that you might play in the playoffs, but also teams that are as good as the teams we’ve played, there’s a reason why they’re as good as they are. They play the game the right way and they play hard. They’re extremely competitive. It’s an exciting time of the year I think the fans and the players are really excited, so the intensity level of the games ramp up.
“[Tonight], we want to play our best hockey and finish the regular season strong. We have to make sure our game is in order and feel good about what we’re doing and then go from there.”
On Wednesday, the Predators announced goaltender Juuse Saros would miss the team’s final two games of the regular season after leaving Tuesday’s game in the third period. Prior to Thursday’s outing, Predators Head Coach John Hynes stated the plan was to start David Rittich in Colorado and give Connor Ingram the start on Friday at Arizona to finish off the regular season. Hynes did not have an additional update on Saros’s status on Thursday.
preds defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (lower-body, week-to-week) participated in Nashville’s morning skate on Thursday, and Hynes hinted Lauzon could either play Friday at Arizona or be ready to begin the playoffs when they begin early next week.
Predators forwards Eeli Tolvanen and Matt Luffas well as defensemen Ben Harpur and Jeremy Daviswere scratched on Thursday.
The Good Guys:
Matt Duchenne, Ryan Johanson, roman josi and Mattias Ekholm all carved for Nashville in regulation time on Thursday, and goaltender David Rittich made 42 saves – and three more in the shootout – as they Predators beat the Avalanche.
Josi continues to lead the Preds – and all NHL defensemen – with 95 points (23g-72a), followed by Duchene with 85 points (43g-42a) and Philip Forsberg with 83 points (42g-41a). Michael Granlund has 63 points (10g-53a), Ryan Johansen has 62 (25g-37a) and Tanner Jeannot has 41 (24g-17a). Rittich is now 6-3-4 in net, and Connor Ingram is 1-1-0 in two starts this season.
The Coyotes will enter tonight’s season finale on a two-game win streak, including a 4-3 overtime win against Dallas on Wednesday. With Clayton Keller out due to injury, Nick Schmaltz leads Arizona with 23 goals and 58 points followed by Phil Kessel with 52 points (8g-44a). Karel Vejmelka is 13-32-3 in net for the Coyotes this season; Harri Sateri is 1-2-1 in five appearances.
The Predators are 40-29-(2)-6 all-time against the Coyotes, including a 15-18-(0)-5 record on the road. Nashville is 4-1-0 in their last five games vs. the Coyotes; they are 6-3-1 in their last 10; and 2-2-1 in their last five on the road.
Notable Versus Arizona:
Matt Duchene owns 24 career points (12g-12a) against Arizona, the most among Predators skaters. Roman Josi has 11 points (5g-6a) in his last five games vs. the Coyotes, including a four-point effort on Nov. 13 (2g-2a).
matt benning has three points (1g-2a) in his last five games against the Coyotes. Nick Cousins spent two seasons in Arizona from 2017-19, posting 46 points (19g-27a) in 152 games.
Arizona goaltender Karel Vejmelka was selected by the Predators in the fifth round (145th overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Coverage for tonight’s 9:30 pm CT start from Glendale begins at 9 pm CT with the Predators Live! pregame show on Bally Sports South. Willy Daunic, Chris Mason and Lyndsay Rowley have the call on the television side, while Pete Weber and Hal Gill will broadcast on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network. Pregame coverage on the radio begins at 8:30 pm with Darren McFarland.