The Phoenix Coyotes bring an end to a grueling three-week stretch of games with only seven off days on Sunday with a divisional matchup with the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Sunday's game will be the third game already between the bitter rivals in the young season, each team with a victory apiece in the previous two tilts.
What Happened Last Game?
Really? You don't remember? It was an arena full of awesome! The Coyotes chased Marty Turco out of his net in a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars at Jobing.com Arena. Lauri Korpikoski was the first star of the night after tallying his first two goals of the season, and linemates Scottie Upshall and Matthew Lombardi each had three assists to help the team to a convincing victory.
It was only the second time that the Coyotes have scored as prolifically, and the first margin of victory of three or more goals in 14 consecutive games. The young Mutts did everything on the Five For Winning Game Preview checklist except for one - keeping the penalties balanced - which means that when the Coyotes listen to their very wise and perceptive bloggers, success follows naturally.
Which means that I'd probably better make this
FIVE FOR WINNING
extra special for the game against Anaheim.
Play With An Edge
It's no secret. These teams hate each other. Lots of teams hate the Ducks because the Ducks play a hard-nosed, gritty, in-your-face style of play, but the Coyotes and Ducks seem to reserve their worst inclinations and loudest chirping for each other. It makes for some thrilling sideshows to go along with the hockey; it also makes for more than a few cheap shots like this "Elbow Heard Round The World" from James Wisniewski on Shane Doan. The proper response to such play, of course, is illustrated by Captain Coyote himself, to wit:
Now, as satisfying as that is to watch, a lot of the shenanigans that happen between these two clubs happen out of sight of the referees even with Chris Pronger douching it up in Philadelphia (I'm looking at you, Corey Perry). So the Coyotes will have to play with their heads up and be ready to weather some tough hockey.
Feel The Bryz
Let's not beat around the bush. There is nobody more motivated on the Coyotes' squad to beat this Ducks team than Ilya Bryzgalov, he of the hot dog fetish and unnaturally high falsetto. He was aiming for a league-leading fourth shutout against Dallas before a couple of quick third-period goals dashed his hopes. But, barring any last-minute change of policy or injury, the Mutts are going to roll with their number one goalie and his fourth-best-in-the-league 2.12 GAA again on Sunday. Extra motivation is always welcome, and any time Bryzgalov faces his former squad the motivation is there in spades.
Play Competent Hockey for Sixty Minutes
This may seem strange to those readers who are new to the Coyotes, but long-time fans will know exactly what I'm saying here. I mentioned this in the last game preview (so I'm a bit redundant - give me a break, I'm just a fill-in for The Big Guy). The Coyotes are playing good hockey for the first time in what seems like forever this season, and they're doing much better at giving a consistent effort through the whole game instead of for only a period or two. Let's not beat around the bush - for most of the past decade, the Coyotes have been lottery candidates and for good reason. My wife attends games very infrequently - partially because she hated the way the Coyotes kept losing so embarrassingly. She was at the Dallas game last night and said (this is verbatim): "I didn't think these guys would ever learn how to play hockey... but I guess I was wrong." So, Coyotes, keep it up!
Play Through The Pain
There's no question - the Coyotes are starting to feel the wear-and-tear of the 82-game NHL season. Factor in the "Olympic Squeeze" during November where they've played a whopping ten games in just over two weeks, and you've got a recipe for a lot of agony. Fortunately, there are a lot of young guys on the team roster to provide raw young health. But after Ed Jovanovski, Vernon Fiddler, and Peter Mueller all left the Dallas game early with injuries, Sunday's game might end up being one of survival of the fittest. There's still no word as of this writing whether any or all of those three players will be back in the lineup against Anaheim, but it's a sure bet that they're not the only ones feeling the weight of such a demanding schedule. Grit your teeth, boys - you'll have a four-day layoff to heal when this one's done.
Build The Streak
The Coyotes once again avoided losing three in a row with their win over Dallas on Friday. Astoundingly enough, the Coyotes haven't lost three in a row all season. That's the good news. The bad news is that they haven't built a win streak all month after a strong October. Sunday's game would be a great start for a winning streak. It is, after all, the holiday season - why not give your fans a gift of a few consecutive victories?
Why? Corey Perry is one of those players that fans love to hate - he has a reputation for dirty play and cheap shots, and he rubs a lot of people the wrong way - but you just can't argue with his statistics. Perry already has 30 points this season (tied for 5th in the league) and is one of the hottest players around. This is a guy the Coyotes need to contain if they can - if they can't, it will be a long night for the Mutts.
Why? Lombardi is one of the Coyotes' hottest players right now. He scored three assists against Dallas and has three assists against Anaheim in the two games between the clubs so far this season. Lombardi's speed and playmaking abilities will be crucial in generating offense against a Ducks team that is gaining momentum.
The Owie List
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries
Did You Know?
The Coyotes are seventh in the Western Conference, tied with 29 points with Nashville and Dallas. The Mutts are tied for sixth in the league in wins (14) after 26 games, are fourth in goals against per game, 12th in both PP and PK, and an incredible 7th in faceoff percentage.
OdinMercer has been gone since Wednesday, and while I have had a terrific time being the fill-in blogger here at Five For Howling, I'll be happy to let him have the keys back to the car. Don't worry, Big Guy, it may read empty on the gas gauge but there are still a few fumes left!