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Coyotes seek adjustments vs. Nashville in quick turnaround for Game 3

Yannick Weber #7,Juuse Saros #74 and Jarred Tinordi #24 of the Nashville Predators clear the puck as Brad Richardson #15 of the Arizona Coyotes stands by in the second period in Game Two of the Western Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 04, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes don’t have a lot of time to adjust. Less than 24 hours after a Game 2 loss to the Nashville Predators to even the series 1-1 on Tuesday, the two teams will meet again on Wednesday.

The Coyotes gave up two first-period goals to the Predators and then another goal in each of the next two periods to make it 4-0 until the final minute of play, when Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse scored for Arizona to spoil the shutout and cut the deficit in half.

But perhaps most concerning wasn’t those early Nashville goals – head coach Rick Tocchet said he felt the first two goals were partly because of unlucky bounces — the Predators stymied Arizona’s offense and blocked the shooting and passing lanes, a stark difference from the offensive outburst the Coyotes had in Game 1 on Sunday.

Forward Derek Stepan warned that Nashville would come out different in Game 2. That, they did.

“I thought they were in the shooting lane, it was hard for us to get pucks to the net,” Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “That was probably the biggest thing that they did. We couldn’t really generate anything from that, and that’s something that we’ve got to find ways to get it to the net.”

Nashville had 21 blocked shots in the game. Nick Bonino led his team with five, and also scored a goal in the game.

“We had a lot of attempts at the net but a lot of things were getting blocked,” Tocchet said. “That’s where creativity, patience, things like that have to come into play. And I think sometimes we were hurrying ourselves and we weren’t creative on certain times where we had the puck.

“We got a little bit antsy, and then that’s what happens. You start pounding shots into guys’ pads. We started to open it up a little bit in the third with our concepts. Maybe it was 4-0 and guys could relax a little bit – I don’t know. But the frustrating part is stick with the game plan that works.”

Wednesday will be the second half of a back-to-back, not ideal given that goaltender Darcy Kuemper has played the entirety of the first two games in the series and the backup Antti Raanta was deemed “unfit to play” during Tuesday’s game. The next goaltender on the depth chart is Adin Hill.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported that Raanta will not be available on Wednesday.

So, the work is cut out: Arizona must maintain its season-long defensive identity while also getting past Nashville’s own defensive tactics on Wednesday, the second game in as many days, with the backup goaltender unavailable.

“But you’ve got to give Nashville credit,” Tocchet said. “They clogged the middle in the D zone. They do a good job there. So there’s certain things you have to do around that to get goals.”


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