NHL.com: Coyotes and Predators are mirror images

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 4:13 PM / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
NHL.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They have flirted with financial troubles and been rumored to be headed for relocation. They have relied on a strong work ethic, a shrewd front office, smart coaching and tremendous goaltending to fight and succeed against established organizations with high-priced skilled players.

They have tried to make their sport work in areas where frozen ponds only exist indoors and hockey talk often is a foreign language.

The Phoenix Coyotes? The Nashville Predators? Try both.

Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith, Dave Tippett and Barry Trotz, the Grand Ole Opry and the Grand Canyon. Even the team logos are similar -- both feature a fierce and hungry mammal. And now two teams with so much in common can add Western Conference semifinalists to the list.

Their series opens Friday at Jobing.com Arena (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN).

If Nashville GM David Poile and the Predators patterned their success after the Detroit Red Wings, Coyotes GM Don Maloney readily admits that Nashville provided the blueprint for his path when he arrived in Phoenix in 2007.

"Since I've been here, I've looked at them as a model for us," Maloney said. "Nashville managed their payroll well, they have a great coach much like ours, great goaltending and they got the most out of what they had.

"We really are mirror images of each other, quite frankly, when it comes to style, commitment and work ethic. You don't get a free night when you play Nashville, and we feel the same is true with the Coyotes. This should be a very interesting series."

Stable ownership and a profitable bottom line have allowed the Predators to take the next step this season. Instead of watching players like Tomas Vokoun, Scott Hartnell and Dan Hamhuis walk away as free agents, they now are able to keep their home-grown talent and add high-end players, as well.

They locked up Rinne with a seven-year, $49 million extension deal in November and hope to sign star defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to new contracts, as well. The Predators were buyers at the trade deadline, adding forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad and defenseman Hal Gill to an already deep roster. The topper came in late March when dynamic Russian Alexander Radulov returned to Nashville after spending four seasons in the KHL.

The Coyotes aren't at that level yet. They can't afford the hired guns that would allow them to match up with the marquee teams. But with impressive young players like defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, forwards Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzal and a productive farm system promising more on the way, the foundation is being laid.

"They have hard-working talent, they are four lines deep, they have two of the best defensemen in the League on the blue line and they have a world-class goaltender,” Maloney said of the Predators. "I think it will be a quick [paced} series, I think it will be a hard-played series and it will be a test of will."

The Coyotes had good success limiting the time and space of Chicago stars Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews in a six-game victory against the Blackhawks in the first round. They'll try to lead in puck possession against the Predators, but still will rely on their system and Smith -- the star of the opening round -- to keep the ice from tilting in Nashville's favor.

"We don't have the luxury of having those highly talented players," Smith said. "But we have a good group of players and everyone is on board with what we're being taught, what we're being coached. I think the biggest thing about winning in the playoffs is playing as a group and believing in what we're doing to get us through hockey games. I think that's what's made us successful all season."

After coming off a six-game series with Chicago that featured five overtime games, the Coyotes are expecting more nip-and-tuck hockey against Nashville.

"I think they're pretty much a similar team to us," Hanzal said. "I think it's going to be a long series and it's going to be a tough one. It's going to be one-goal games, I think. We're going to do everything to win it."

Author: Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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