Because of their scoring depth, the Phoenix Coyotes managed to keep their home win streak going despite the absence of one of their top playmakers.
With Martin Hanzal finishing up his suspension, the Coyotes hope for similar contributions while earning a fifth straight win in the desert Thursday night against the Nashville Predators.
Hanzal was docked two games by the NHL for charging Edmonton’s Jeff Petry in a 5-4 victory Saturday. The center scored that day in the opener to a three-game homestand and remains tied for the team lead with five goals.
Hanzal is second on the Coyotes with 11 points as part of a balanced attack that’s been one of the NHL’s most productive with 43 goals. Phoenix (8-3-2) has eight players who have scored three or more goals - Nashville only has two.
“(Hanzal) is a big part of our team that’s certainly missed,” coach Dave Tippett said. “But it is what it is. You have to live by those circumstances. It’s a great opportunity for someone else.”
Kyle Chipchura took advantage of his opportunity for extended playing time in Hanzal’s absence Tuesday, contributing a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over Los Angeles. Chipchura had one point through his first 12 games.
Phoenix’s four-game home win streak is its longest since a seven-game run Feb. 4-28, 2012. The Coyotes are 5-0-1 at Jobing.com Arena, matching the deepest they have gone into a season without a regulation home loss since the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1996.
Nashville (6-5-1) is opening a seven-game road trip there and has lost four straight in Arizona - three in the 2012 Western Conference semifinals and a 4-0 defeat in its only visit last season.
The Predators have had four days off since suffering their most lopsided defeat of the season, 6-1 to St. Louis on Saturday. Carter Hutton gave up the fifth goal with 12:12 to go and was replaced by Magnus Hellberg, who was called up from the minors last Thursday after the Predators announced No. 1 netminder Pekka Rinne (hip surgery) will miss at least four weeks.
“There are a couple breakdowns that we have to fix,” said center Nick Spaling, who scored his first goal of the season.
Nashville gave up two power-play goals after killing off all 22 penalties in the previous seven games. The Predators have scored more than three goals in only one game all season.
“We need a little more production from our forwards,” coach Barry Trotz said. “When we get a chance to convert, we’ve got to convert.”
Nashville has lost two of three since a 4-0-1 stretch and lost two of three to Phoenix last season, including a 7-4 defeat March 28 in the most recent meeting.
Radim Vrbata had two goals and an assist during the Coyotes’ six-goal first period in that game, and he currently leads Phoenix with 12 points.
Keith Yandle also scored in the teams’ last matchup, giving him four goals in his last five regular-season games against the Predators along with two assists. Yandle has seven points in the last four games overall, with five coming on the power play as Phoenix has converted 5 of 18 chances.