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NHL Playoff Preview for Predators

After the NHL announced the Return to Play Plan last week, a hope for the Nashville Predators to return to the ice became a reality. The season, which was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, will restart with a Qualifying Round and Seeding Round Robin in two hub cities each hosting 12 teams from one conference.
The top four teams in the Eastern or Western Conference will play each other once (three games per team) in a round-robin to decide the top four seeds for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These games will be played with regular-season overtime and shootout rules, with ties in the final standings broken by regular-season points percentage. The four teams from the Western Conference are the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars.
The other eight Western teams, seeded by points percentage, will play in four best-of-5 series in the Qualifying Round, with the winners advancing to play against the top four seeds. These games will be played with playoff overtime rules.
Here is the Predators best-of-5 series matchup and breakdown:
(6th seed) Nashville Predators vs. (11th seed) Arizona Coyotes
Regular-season records

Predators: 35-26-8, 78 points (.565)
Coyotes: 33-29-8, 74 points (.529)

Head-to-head
Season series tied
Oct. 17: Coyotes 5, Predators 2, at ARI
Dec. 23: Predators 3, Coyotes 2, at NSH

What’s changed
Predators: They were mostly healthy when the season was paused except for defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who missed the last four games with a lower-body injury.

Coyotes: Forward Conor Garland and defenseman Jakob Chychrun each is likely to return to the lineup from a lower-body injury. Each was week to week when the season was paused. Garland led the Coyotes with 22 goals in the regular season, and Chychrun scored 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 63 games.

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Analysis
One of the interesting storylines will be Predators coach John Hynes going against Coyotes forward Taylor Hall, who won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP with the New Jersey Devils in 2017-18, when Hynes was Devils coach. Another storyline will be the Predators’ goalie situation because there was a changing of the guard before the season was paused, with Juuse Saros starting 14 of their last 18 games. Will Saros continue as the No. 1, or will Nashville go back to veteran Pekka Rinne? The Coyotes were trending in the wrong direction before the season was paused, going 8-13-4 in their last 25 games, but get a chance at a fresh start.

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