3 Keys: Predators vs. Coyotes, Game 4 of Cup Qualifiers

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No. 6 Predators vs. No. 11 Coyotes

2:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, NHL.TV, SN360, FS-A, FS-TN

Arizona leads best-of-5 series, 2-1

The Arizona Coyotes can advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs by defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Friday.

The Coyotes won Game 3 4-1 when Darcy Kuemper made 39 saves Wednesday in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city.

Teams that win Game 3 after a series is tied 1-1 are 22-7 (75.9 percent) winning a best-of-5 NHL series (14-2 when last used from 1980-86).

“The next game is going to be huge,” Coyotes forward Taylor Hall said. “They’re going to come out with their season on the line and we’re going to have to be ready.”

Here are 3 keys to Game 4:

 

1. Goalie decision

It is unclear if Predators goalie Juuse Saros will make a fourth straight start or Pekka Rinne will play for the first time this postseason.

“It’s going to be tough decision,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “The good part is you can’t go wrong with either guy. Both of them give us a chance to win. You have to have different factors that come into it. [Saros] went through three games … where’s he at? Where’s Pekka at since we haven’t practiced in a few days? All these things you want to be able to consider.

“It’s not a decision you take lightly.”

Saros has a 3.03 goals-against average and .900 save percentage this postseason and allowed three goals on 27 shots in Game 3. 

Rinne, whose streak of 89 consecutive postseason starts ended with Game 1 on Sunday, was 4-6-1 with a 3.59 GAA and .895 save percentage (.904 at even strength) in his last 11 starts this season. He was 18-14-4 with a 3.17 GAA, an .895 save percentage and three shutouts in 36 games (35 starts) for the season. In the previous two playoffs, Rinne was 9-10 with a 3.08 GAA and .904 save percentage.

 

2. Cool Kuemper

Kuemper has a 2.69 GAA and a .928 save percentage this postseason. He was 15-7-2 with a 2.97 GAA and a .935 save percentage in his first 24 games before sustaining a lower-body injury Dec. 19 that kept him out more than two months.

“That’s as big a pressure game as you’re going to get,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said of Game 3. “The next game is going to be the most important pressure game again for [Kuemper]. He’s had to do this a lot over the last two years, and he’s been unflappable.”

 

3. Sticking with it

The Predators, who had a 19-9 shot advantage in the first period of Game 3, are confident they can even the series.

“Although the numbers look good, there are certain things we can do to be even better,” Hynes said. “That’s what we focused on with our group. It’s not getting deterred or changing what you’re doing because the process has been good. But we have to make the process great.

“It’s going to be a highly competitive game and our players are excited to play. They’re competitive people, and we just have to go out and get it done.”

 

Predators projected lineup

Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Mikael GranlundKyle TurrisMatt Duchene

Rocco GrimaldiNick BoninoCraig Smith

Calle JarnkrokColton SissonsAustin Watson

Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Mattias EkholmDante Fabbro

Jarred TinordiYannick Weber

Juuse Saros

Pekka Rinne

Scratched: Colin Blackwell, Daniel Carr, Dan Hamhuis, Michael McCarron, Eeli Tolvanen, Yakov Trenin, Alexandre Carrier, Korbinian Holzer, Troy Grosenick, Connor Ingram

Unfit to play: None

 

Coyotes projected lineup

Taylor Hall — Christian DvorakPhil Kessel

Clayton KellerDerek StepanConor Garland

Lawson CrouseCarl SoderbergChristian Fischer  

Michael GrabnerBrad RichardsonVinnie Hinostroza

Oliver Ekman-LarssonJason Demers

Alex GoligoskiNiklas Hjalmarsson

Jakob ChychrunJordan Oesterle

Darcy Kuemper

Adin Hill

Scratched: Brayden Burke, Michael Chaput, Hudson Fasching, Barrett Hayton, Kyle Capobianco, Jordan Gross, Aaron Ness, Victor Soderstrom, Ilya Lyubushkin

Unfit to play: Nick Schmaltz, Antti Raanta

 

Status report

Schmaltz, a forward, skated Wednesday and Thursday but is questionable after missing the first three games. … Raanta, a goalie, did not practice Thursday.

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