2011 playoffs: Coyotes face possible last game in Phoenix, five Game 4’s tonight

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After two wide-open games on Tuesday, the NHL features five Game 4 matches tonight. Four of the games are turning point moments as series can move to 2-2 ties or leading teams could earn 3-1 series leads. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes fight for their playoff lives. As always, start time are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

Washington @ NY Rangers – 7 p.m. (Versus); Capitals lead series 2-1

Bruce Boudreau’s comments about Madison Square Garden might stir the pot and make for a raucous crowd, but his diversionary tactics probably won’t keep the Rangers from noticing that Mike Knuble won’t be out there for Washington.

There really hasn’t been much shame to go around in this low-scoring series, just a lot of tough defense. This game should be just as intense – maybe more – as the Capitals could get a stranglehold on the series or it could be tied up going back to Washington.

Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay – 7 p.m.; Penguins lead series 2-1

The Penguins will play this game without tenacious forechecker Chris Kunitz while the Lightning will miss the rugged play of Steve Downie, as both players were suspended one game for their actions in Game 3.

Both teams will miss those players, but the Penguins might hurt the most considering their already scant amount of scoring ability. Then again, Pittsburgh keeps making it happen, so don’t be surprised if they put Tampa Bay on the brink tonight.

Philadelphia @ Buffalo – 7:30 p.m.; Flyers lead series 2-1

For all the attention focused on Philadelphia’s supposed goaltending issues, the Flyers won the last two games and could have the Sabres on the ropes with a victory. That being said, Philly knows that the Sabres are going to be a desperate team in this one.

One thing to watch for: are the Flyers getting to Ryan Miller? The all-world goalie has been yapping at former teammate Danny Briere, but maybe he’s really mad at himself. After earning a 35-save shutout in Game 1, Miller has allowed eight goals on 59 shots in the last two games. He needs to bounce back against Philly’s varied attack or Buffalo is in big-time danger.

Anaheim @ Nashville – 8:30 p.m.; Predators lead series 2-1

Doesn’t it just feel like this is the year the Predators finally make it to the second round? The Ducks are a pesky lot, but that was actually a pretty dominant Game 3 win, even if Nashville only won by one goal. Want proof? Just look at how much they’re getting under the skin of hot-tempered Ducks GM Bob Murray.

Yet if Anaheim wins this game, the Preds might go back to the Pond feeling like they didn’t take enough advantage of Bobby Ryan’s suspension.

Detroit @ Phoenix – 10:30 p.m. (Versus); Red Wings lead series 3-0

There’s a very real possibility that this might be the last game the Coyotes ever play in Phoenix. It’s far from a done deal yet, but things haven’t been looking great for the City of Glendale. If the ‘Yotes play like have been in this series, the franchise will leave the desert with a whimper.

The Red Wings have some incentive to win, even if they lack some urgency. After all, this is an aging team with plenty of mileage on their veteran players’ legs. Maybe they’d get slightly rusty with the layoff related to a sweep, but overall, they would benefit greatly from the rest.