By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to take a commanding three games to none lead in their Western Conference semifinal series with the Nashville Predators tonight when the teams play Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
The Coyotes, who won Games 1 and 2 in Glendale, are a focused team, and Head Coach Dave Tippett does not expect his players to ease up because Phoenix owns a 2-0 series lead.
“That doesn’t concern me at all with our players,” Tippett said. “It’s a very motivated group right now. Our identity is if we don’t play hard and play desperate we don’t give ourselves the best chance to win. So, the motivation to play hard, play desperate is just what we’ve been doing for the last month of the season and in the playoffs. We have to continue that.”
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to watch Tippett's press conference after Wednesday's morning skate.
, who ranks third among NHL goalies in the playoffs with a .943 save percentage, will start in net again for Phoenix. It will be his first start at Bridgestone Arena as a member of the Coyotes; backup Jason LaBarbera
started and won Phoenix’s two regular-season games in Nashville this season.
“Obviously, it’s nice to be up two games, but (there’s) a lot of hockey left to be played," Smith said. "We had done some good things the last game, I think we were happy with the way we came out and established our forecheck and played more to our identity of our team. So, we’ve got to build on that.”
The Coyotes scored nine goals against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in the first two games. That's as many as Rinne allowed in five games in the opening series against Detroit.
|Photo by Getty Images
"He's a very good goaltender," Coyotes center Antoine Vermette
said. "It's something unusual. You don't see that many goals usually against this guy. So yeah, our approach has been good. That being said, we're going to have to do it again. We're going to have to create scoring chances."
The Coyotes are hoping forward Lauri Korpikoski
, who missed Game 2 because of an undisclosed injury, will be able to play tonight. Korpikoski skated briefly at the morning skate on Wednesday.
The Predators will play minus forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, whom the team suspended on Tuesday for violating unspecified team rules while the team was in Arizona.
"I hope there is some remorse for what they did," Preds General Manager David Poile said. "Time will tell with their behavior and if they get the opportunity to get back into the lineup."
Predators captain Shea Weber said the team’s focus is on getting back into the series on home ice.
"We dug ourselves a hole, and we have to find a good way to get out of it," Weber said.
Nashville forward David Legwand has notched nine points (six goals, three assists) in his last 11 postseason outings dating to 2011. Legwand is Nashville’s all-time leader in postseason goals (12), assists (14), points (26), plus/minus (+9) and games played (44).