NHL Hockey

Predators look to keep postseason hopes alive, visit Coyotes

A Stanley Cup playoff berth is a long shot for the Nashville Predators, but they will look to improve their odds when they visit the Arizona Coyotes in Tempe, Ariz., on Thursday.

The Predators, currently riding a 5-1-1 run, are a half-dozen points out of a playoff spot but currently have a few games in hand.

Even Monday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks has been a positive for the Predators. Nashville erased a two-goal deficit in the third period, with both goals coming from rookie Luke Evangelista.

"I feel good about the effort," Predators forward Colton Sissons said. "It wasn't from a lack of competitiveness or a want, it was just pretty good hockey and I'm proud of the guys for scratching and clawing back in and getting a big point."

The Predators recently traded away forwards Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Tanner Jeannot as well as defenseman Mattias Ekholm, and have also been hit by injuries to key forwards Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen.

However, stories akin to Evangelista scoring a pair of goals in his fourth big-league game are huge boosts.

"I was gripping the stick a little tight, but I was just happy to be able to bury one," said Evangelista, the 2020 second-round draft choice who was leading the American Hockey League's Milwaukee Admirals in points before being summoned from the minors. "I've felt pretty good about my play. My mentality is that I'm just trying to earn one more game at a time. So, I felt like I was contributing in other ways, but I think at some point you do have to produce, so it was good to get a couple."

The Coyotes will likely have strong odds when the draft lottery is held, but are not going through the season without scrapping, especially at home.

Arizona has an impressive 15-11-3 record at Mullett Arena, with the latest success Tuesday's 6-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

"A lot of guys stepped up (Tuesday) and pulled together," Coyotes forward Christian Fischer said. "This is our team moving forward, for the next 20 games or so. We've done a good job of sticking together and playing really well, especially at home. It's fun to play here."

Travis Boyd scored twice in helping the Coyotes snap a three-game losing skid. His second goal was his 100th career point.

"If you were 7-year-old Travis and said that would happen, he would have loved it," Boyd said. "Super cool. I'm proud of that, and hopefully I can get 100 more."

Boyd is not alone in having something to celebrate, even if the Coyotes are all but mathematically eliminated and were on a three-game skid before beating the Blues.

Nick Schmaltz has scored in nine of his last 13 games, and reached the 20-goal mark for the second consecutive season, and goaltender Karel Vejmelka not only has an 11-6-2 home record, but has collected three wins in which he has made 40 or more saves.

Having home success has provided a boost for the Coyotes to be positive heading down the stretch.

"It's a tough place to come in and play," Boyd said. "Our record speaks to that. We're excited that we're home for a lot of the stretch run."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 8, 2023

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