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Walker leads Nashville with goal, two assists

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The new Glendale Arena should be an asset
to the Phoenix Coyotes in the long run. On opening night it wasn't
much help against the Nashville Predators.

Scott Walker had a goal and two assists, helping the Predators
spoil Phoenix's first game in its new arena by beating the Coyotes
3-1 Saturday night.

Marek Zidlicky had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Vokoun made
32 saves to further silence the standing-room-only crowd of 19,052
in the 17,799-seat building.

"We had to come out and kill some of the energy of the crowd
and the excitement," coach Barry Trotz said. "We got a good lead,
and we were very focused, and I thought we were able to frustrate
them."

The $220 million suburban arena is expected to make the Coyotes
profitable after the team lost millions each season in the America
West Arena in downtown Phoenix, where more than one-fourth of the
16,200 hockey seats had an obstructed view of the ice.

Coyotes players and opponents alike also used to complain about
ice quality in the old building, built for the NBA's Phoenix Suns.
They found the new ice sheet more acceptable.

"It was pretty good," Vokoun said. "In these climates it's
never going to be perfect. It's not like you're in the mountains
where it's minus 20 degrees, so I think it was pretty smooth, and
the building is pretty. It's great to have a new building; the old
arena wasn't really good for hockey."

"The ice was quick and good," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said.
"There is no excuse."

Brian Savage spoiled Vokoun's shutout bid by scoring 8:21 into
the third period, but the Predators regained their two-goal lead
when Martin Erat deflected a shot by Robert Schnabel past Phoenix
goaltender Sean Burke with 4:50 remaining.

Burke made just 18 saves.

Phoenix hasn't won at home since Dec. 10 against Dallas. The
Coyotes were unbeaten (1-0-3) on a road trip that followed their
5-2 loss to Minnesota in their last game at America West on Dec.
15. They tied the Predators 3-3 in Nashville on Monday, with Walker
scoring all three goals.

"It's just the ebb and flow of it all," he said. "It's just
when things go in, and it just so happened things went in against
these guys in Nashville and then again tonight."

Walker opened the scoring when Zidlicky passed him the puck
through a defender's legs. Walker swept it into the net with 5:43
left in the first period.

Savage appeared to tie it with 1:52 to go in the period when he
flicked a loose puck past Vokoun. But Doan, knocked headfirst into
the crease seconds before, was pinned there when the puck crossed
the goal line, and the score was disallowed.

"Obviously, we would have loved to score the first goal and get
them right into it, but it didn't happen that way," Savage said.
"We had a lot of chances, and you have to give credit to their
goaltender."

Walker started the next scoring play when he left a drop pass
for David Legwand, who sent the puck to Zidlicky in the circle. The
defenseman made it 2-0 with a shot that bounced off Burke's knee
and out of his glove before landing in the corner of the net 4:17
into the second period.

It was enough for Nashville, which improved to 12-0-1-1 when
leading after two.

Fifth-year Coyotes coach Bob Francis, the longest-tenured coach
in franchise history, praised co-owners Steve Ellman and Jerry
Moyes and managing partner Wayne Gretzky for getting the building
finished.

"They had a vision," Francis said. "What stood out for me was
coming out to Glendale 18 months ago when we broke ground. Build
it, they will come."

Game notes
Paulina Gretzky, 14, Gretzky's daughter, got a huge ovation
when she sang the national anthem. She also performed at the
Heritage Classic on Nov. 22, and Gretzky said beforehand that was
more difficult. "She did a great job in Edmonton, in that cold,"
he said. "She'll be fine." ... The Predators are 1-2 in
arena-opening games, losing to Florida at home in 1998 and at
Dallas in 2001. ... The Glendale building replaced the Stars' rink
as newest in the NHL. ... Vokoun got his 80th win -- one shy of Mike
Dunham's franchise record -- and 16th this season to stay tied with
Marty Turco of Dallas for fourth in the league. ... Legwand also
had a goal disallowed -- because officials blew the whistle before
he put a rebound past Burke.