By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to secure the franchise’s first berth in the Western Conference Finals tonight when they host the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of their best-of-seven playoff series at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix, which has won 12 of its past 15 games dating to the regular season, leads the series 3-1, and can eliminate the Preds with a victory on home ice.
“I think it’s going to be a very competitive game,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “Again, space is going to be tight. You know that they win or go home, or we win and move on. So, both teams will be desperate in the fact that it’s a ‘must win,’ but every game in the playoffs is a ‘must win’ almost. So, we recognize what their situation is, but we also recognize that if we can get a win we can move on. So, both teams should be of the same emotional level.”
, who has stopped 118 of the 126 shots he has faced so far in the conference semifinals, will start in goal for the Coyotes.
"We’ve got to find a way to take care of business," Coyotes captain Shane Doan
said. "We’ve talked about how this has to be our best game of the series.”
Phoenix will play minus defenseman Rostislav Klesla
, whom the NHL on Sunday suspended for one game for his hit on Nashville’s Matt Halischuk in Game 4. David Schlemko
will replace Klesla - who ranks tied for fourth on the team in playoff points with six.
“It’s a good opportunity for myself and for our team," Schlemko said. "I think we all know we want to get it done tonight. We had the same situation last round and hopefully we could take a little from that and get the job done tonight.”
Should the Coyotes win tonight they would advance to the Western Confrefernce Finals. The Los Angeles Kings already have clicnhed a spot in that series and are awaiting the winner of this one.
Forward Mikkel Boedker
said the Coyotes cannot afford to start thinking about playing LA in the next round.
“You watch all the other series, not just the other one in our conference, but the other ones out East, too,” Boedker said. “But we can’t look forward to that now, we still have to win one more and that’s what we’re looking for now and we can’t think about the other series."
|Photo by Norm Hall
Down 3-1 in the series, Nashville is flirting with elimination from the playoffs.
"There's nowhere to hide. It is what it is," Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "I think during the series we've played well but not well enough to be up 3-1. We haven't buried our chances when we've had lots of chances. We put ourselves in this position, and we've got to dig ourselves out."
Forwards Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, who were suspended by the Preds for Game 3 and then scratched for Game 4, are expected to return to the lineup tonight.
Pekka Rinne will start in goal for the Predators, who have collected a franchise-record five goals on 14 road power-play opportunities this postseason, including three goals on seven attempts at Jobing.com Arena thus far.