Wednesday, May 2, 2012
To say that tonight's Game 3 matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes is pivotal for the Nashville Predators would be quite the understatement. The Coyotes have a 2-0 lead in the series, with a chance to take complete control tonight at Bridgestone Arena. If the Predators lose this game, there season is as good as done.
Nashville will have to try and win this game without two of their most talented offensive options. Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will not be in the lineup tonight due to violating team rules before Game 2 on Sunday night.
The Predators will focus their attention on the defensive aspect of the game tonight, which is something that was lacking in the first two games of the series. They will have to be much better in that area of the game if they want to climb back into this series.
Coming into the series, most experts believed it would be a low-scoring, tight-checking series. That hasn't been the case so far. Phoenix has been able to score nine goals in the first two games of this series while the Predators put up six goals. If the Predators make the proper adjustments on defense, tonight's game could be a low-scoring contest that most people expected heading into the series.
It's unclear who will fill the spots of Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn. Craig Smith and Colin Wilson have both seen playing time already in this series while Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk appear to be ready to play if they are needed.
My player to watch for the Coyotes is Radim Vrbata. He has three points in the first two games, including a goal in each game so far. Vrbata has been the best player on the ice for Phoenix over the first two games, and the Predators will have to find a way to slow him down tonight.
For Nashville, my player to watch is Shea Weber. With the distractions that have surrounded this team over the past few days, the Predators will look to their Captain to lead by example. That's exactly what he must do tonight. Expect him to have a big impact on both sides of the ice.
The puck drops at 8 p.m. CT tonight.
(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)