By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will play the third and final game of a season-opening trip today against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (AZ time).
Today’s game is the first of four between these Western Conference rivals this season.
will start in goal for the Coyotes (0-1-1), who are seeking their first win of the season. It will be the first start of 2011-12 for LaBarbera, who is 3-3-0 vs. Nashville in his career with a 3.19 goals-against average.
The Coyotes are seeking their first five-on-five goal of the young season. So far, Phoenix has scored all four of its goals on power plays and rank sixth in the NHL in power-play efficiency (4 for 14).
"Five-on-five is going to be big for us," Coyotes captain Shane Doan
said after Thursday's morning skate. "As a group, we've got to find scoring by committee. There's a group of guys that have to contribute and if they're not contributing than it's going to be tough."
Phoenix is averaging 35 shots on goal per game. Only four teams average more. Doan and defenseman Keith Yandle
are leading the way with 5.5. shots per game.
The Coyotes again will be without defenseman Michal Rozsival
, who suffered an upper-body injury in the season opener at San Jose.
Tonight's game is the home opener for Nashville (2-0-0), which began its season with road wins at Columbus and St. Louis. As such, Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett is expecting an extremely challenging game.
"You've just got to compete and you've got to push back a little bit," Tippett said about being the visiting team at an opponent's home opener. "We expect Nashville to come at us hard. It's their home opener and there's going to be a lot of energy in the building. We have to make sure we come out and compete and push back."
Goalie Pekka Rinne, who is three wins shy of 100 for his NHL career, stopped 63 of 67 shots in those games. Rinne has posted a 6-3-1 record and 1.78 goals-against average vs. Phoenix in 10 games.
Rookie Craig Smith has scored a goal in each of his first two NHL games, becoming the first Predator to do so. A week into the season, Smith is co-leading NHL rookies with four points.
Right wing Patric Hornqvist, who ranked second on the Preds last season with 21 goals, may not play because of a lower-body injury.
to watch a video of LaBarbera talking about his approach to the season and his new mask that honors Pat Tillman/military personnel.