Friday, April 27, 2012
The Nashville Predators will take on the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series tonight at 8 p.m. at Jobing.com Arena. It will be Nashville's first game since they eliminated the Detroit Red Wings from the first round of the playoffs last Friday.
For the second consecutive season, the Predators will begin the second round of the playoffs on the road. Last season, the Vancouver Canucks were able to get a 1-0 victory over the Predators in Game 1 despite a stellar effort from Pekka Rinne.
Nashville defenseman Hal Gill missed the entire first round of the playoffs with a lower-body injury. Gill has been participating in practices over the last week, and is expected to play in the second round. Look for him to make his playoff debut with the Predators tonight.
Phoenix will be looking to feed off of their home crowd tonight in Glendale. Tonight will be the first time that the Coyotes' franchise has advanced to the second round of the playoffs since moving from Winnipeg to Phoenix. It's an exciting time for hockey fans in the desert.
My player to watch for the Coyotes is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. At just 20 years of age, Ekman-Larsson is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. He had 32 points in the regular season and is very solid defensively for the Coyotes.
For Nashville, my player to watch is Martin Erat. After being relatively quiet in the first round against Detroit, look for Erat to play a solid game tonight. He was the leading scorer for the Predators in the regular season, and was the most consistent offensive option all year long. Erat will look to regain that form tonight in the desert.