It's Thanksgiving Day here in the States, so this game preview is going to be a little short - after all, I have turkey to go eat and a tryptophan-induced coma to enjoy later, and by the time I come out of it we'll be well into Friday. Five For Howling's big dog, OdinMercer, is still out of town enjoying the holiday, so you're stuck with me again until he gets back to clean up my mess.
What Happened Last Game?
The Coyotes got burned by the Flames - or, more specifically, by a couple of former Coyotes dressed up in Flames uniforms like a couple of five-year-old girls playing "little princess." Okay, sorry, I know that's kind of bitter. But in fairness, it was the Coyotes' second straight loss in Alberta after being shut out by the Oilers on Monday, and losing in Canada has a special agony for Mutts fans after what happened this summer.
The Coyotes haven't lost three straight yet all season, though, so Friday's game against Dallas is going to be even more important than a game against our bitter division rivals usually is.
FIVE FOR WINNING
Attack the Goalie
Whether we get a big helping of Thanksgiving Turco or more of the same Auld Lang Syne, we need to make sure that the Stars' netminder earns his pay. Marty Turco in particular has proven to be less than bulletproof at Jobing.com Arena - he likes to play Superman, but the Coyotes in general and Shane Doan in particular seem to know where to find Kryptonite. The key against Turco is to have enough patience with the puck until he overcommits. Against Auld, who plays a less "flamboyant" style, the Coyotes simply have to dodge the "show up your old team" ethic that nipped them against Calgary. Tall Bald Auld is less aggressive in the crease than Turco, but he's also more porous - and as long as the refs and video review guys are paying attention the Coyotes can slip a few past him.
Clog the Slot and Crease
By now, we've all realized that there aren't any spectacularly-gifted offensive talents on the Coyotes' squad. And if we hadn't on Wednesday, TSN did a great job of reminding us about it. Over. And over. And over again. So since we apparently lack the creativity and precision it takes to snipe goals in from afar on a consistent basis, it would behoove the Desert Dogs to increase the close-in pressure between the circles and in front of the net. The Coyotes signed Taylor Pyatt for his big body and ability to create chances at the crease - his slow skating speed has looked out of place among the other faster forwards in the lineup when the team has dumped-and-chased. Parking guys like Pyatt, Paul Bissonnette, and Martin Hanzal
Draw Penalties More Than You Commit Them
This season, the power play has actually been one of the Coyotes' best chances to score (last season, the PP was so awful that fans in the stands actually wished that the team had the option of declining penalties like in the NFL). The more chances we have to use it, the better off we are. The problem is, our penalty kill has been far more active this year than our power play. The Coyotes need to work on staying out of the penalty box, because although our PK has been solid it has been significantly overworked lately. In the last tilt between these teams, the Coyotes spent the last two minutes of the game on the PK. Let's not repeat history.
Play a Full Sixty
The Dallas Stars go into Friday's action with 29 points, but seven of them have come in overtime losses. That means that teams that stay with the Stars the full distance have a better-than-average chance of coming away with two points even if the game goes to overtime. The Coyotes have been far better this season at playing hard in all three periods; let's keep the trend going.
Make Brad Richards Sad
A happy Brad Richards is bad news for opposing teams. Hockey pundits have noticed that Richards seems to be more comfortable and playing with more verve than ever before. With 30 points, Richards leads the Stars in production, but 23 of those 30 points are assists - more than double anyone else on the Stars' roster. Clearly, a Brad Richards who is enjoying being on the ice is one who poses a significant threat to other teams' happiness. The solution? Contain Brad Richards. The fewer plays the playmaker can make, the better the odds that we'll win.
Neal is the Dallas Stars' second-leading scorer overall and tops the team in goals scored with an impressive 19.6% shot percentage. Neal scored one of the two Dallas goals in the Stars' 3-2 loss against Phoenix on November 14th.
Yandle scored the only goal - a power play goal - in Phoenix's 2-1 loss against Calgary on Wednesday night. He also had two assists in the Coyotes' November 14th victory against Dallas. He has 4-7-11 and +2 so far this season, he has the team's fourth-best shot percentage, and he is tied for second on the team for most power play goals (3). Dave Tippett has rewarded his outstanding play with an average of 25 minutes of ice time over the past five games.
The Owie List
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries
Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
Did You Know?
The Coyotes will hold a "Sandstorm Sale," offering select lower level tickets for just $25 starting Friday at 10am and lasting until Monday. This offer includes all of the available lower level seats in sections 102, 103, 109, 110, 113, 114, 120 and 121 at Jobing.com Arena. During this brief four-day sale, fans will be able to purchase tickets in any of these sections for any remaining Coyotes home game during the 2009-10 regular season (December-April) for just $25 while supplies last. The tickets for the Sandstorm Sale can only be purchased at Ticketmaster.
It's Thanksgiving, and one of the things all Coyotes fans can agree on is that we should all be thankful that we still have an NHL hockey team in our city for at least one more year. Most of the rest of the hockey world think the Phoenix Coyotes franchise is a giant turkey, but for us no pumpkin pie can ever be as sweet as having the chance to watch the greatest game in the world live and in person.
Be safe wherever you are and have a great holiday!