Can Preds show playoff form vs. Coyotes?

Can Preds show playoff form vs. Coyotes?

Even though its top wild-card spot in the Western Conference is assured, Nashville has plenty of work left to do before the Stanley Cup chase officially commences next week.

The first challenger in the waning days of the regular season: sliding Arizona, which visits Bridgestone Arena tonight. Online sports book BetDSI gives the Predators -230 odds of holding serve on home ice.

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The Coyotes (35-38-7), with a money line of +190 to come through in the Music City, have lost four of their last five. Dave Tippett’s team is in the process of ending another trying campaign by taking on six consecutive playoff-bound foes. No. 1 netminder Mike Smith saw his torrid stretch fall by the wayside in Monday’s 5-2 loss to St. Louis, while reserve Louis Domingue coughed up six goals to the Blackhawks the following night.

Peter Laviolette’s club can’t claim immunity from recent struggles, either. The Preds (40-26-14) barely skated past freefalling Colorado on Tuesday, 4-3, as Filip Forsberg potted his 32nd goal. Prior to that W, which eliminated the Avs from the postseason picture, Nashville had dropped three in a row.

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One indisputable truth: Pekka Rinne dominates those from the desert. The Predators’ No. 1 netminder carries a 14-6-1 career record vs. Arizona, complete with a 2.00 GAA, into this evening’s festivities. Despite some ups and downs in 2015-16, he remains the type of goalie who’s capable of standing on his head well into the summer.

Nashville’s clearly not ready for hockey’s most glorious tournament yet, but it’s imperative to feast on the inferior foe in question. Forsberg, Ryan Johansen (points in three straight) and the rest of the crew will respond accordingly.

THURSDAY NHL FREE PICK: PREDATORS -1.5

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