Coyotes Look For Early Christmas Present Tonight Against Sharks

PITTSBURGH PA - DECEMBER 20: Head Coach Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes shouts instructions to Martin Hanzal #11 of the Phoenix Coyotes during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 20 2010 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Tonight your Phoenix Coyotes look to get a couple of points or at least save some face tonight in San Jose against the Sharks. The Coyotes will need to come out hungry as last time out in Pittsburgh they failed on a basic level to even show up. Goaltender Jason LaBarbera got lit up, but it was largely the fault of the "defensive" play in front of him. Way too many odd man breaks, a 2 on 0 for a goal and just bad positioning all around. What happened to the team from last month that sacrificed themselves for a play and had speed enough to get back and play defense? Wherever they went if they take another night off like that again it's going to get ugly in a hurry with the Sharks offence playing rather well at the moment. 

The Sharks are winners of three in a row, last beating the Oilers 2-1. Ryan Whitney of the Oilers scored late in the game to make it interesting, but most of the contest was dominated by the Sharks. The Finned ones are starting to look more like the Sharks they have been the last few seasons rather than the soft team they had looked like early in the season. Using a goalie tandem of Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki has worked out alright so far, but Niittymaki has certainly been the better of the two thus far with 2.31 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Niemi hasn't been nearly as good with a 3.15 and .897 respectively and a 6-8-2 record. Luckily the Coyotes will face Niemi in goal tonight so they need to attack him and take advantage of him. 

The Coyotes will be starting their backup once again too as Ilya Bryzgalov is still out with an upper-body injury. Jason LaBarbera hasn't been bad exactly. Even with that blow out on Monday he's got a .892 save percentage over his last  3 starts. Take that lousy game away and that goes up to a .925 against the two New York squads. Everything comes down to how much the Coyotes want it tonight. 

Five for Winning

Remember "Team Speed"?: Early in the season the Coyotes were constantly being praised for their team speed. Now they seem to be coasting out there at times which leads to a lot of the constant penalties they seem to be taking. I'm not sure how exactly you get slower as a team but it's been noticeable. the extra step that had been there, the aggressiveness on the puck it seemed to go up in smoke. Finding that extra step will improve quite a few areas of the game.

Stay in your net!: Everyone freaks out whenever Jason LaBarbera leaves to go handle the puck, and with good reason. That's not his game. If it's a quick and easy thing fine, but he needs to stay in between the pipes as much as possible.

PK Losin: It's a big factor in the recent losses. When the opposition goes 4 for 8 on the power play it begs two questions. One, why can't you stop heading to the box? It's obviously hurting on the scoreboard, try something else. and Second 4 goals? Are you just conceding this now? It was a brutal effort on the part of the special teams units.

Lockdown Couture: The rookie has been on fire for the Sharks. He leads the team in goals with 18. That's on a team with Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. While Martin Hanzal will still be matched up with Thornton's line most of the time, someone has to shut the kid down. 

Boedker looks to make a mark: With 8 goals and 18 assists in 31 games down in San Antoinio, forward Mikkel Boedker wants a chance to stick for a while in place of the injured Taylor Pyatt. He'll likely get into the lineup tonight as with Pyatt out and Wojtek Wolski a question mark as well the Coyotes are a little banged up.

Key Players


Martin Hanzal

#11 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes

6-6

228

Feb 20, 1987


He always seems to have big defensive games against the Sharks and we'll need another one out of him tonight as as a team it's been somewhere we've been weak. It doesn't hurt that he leads the team in goals either even if he only has 9 on the year.


Logan Couture

#39 / Center / San Jose Sharks

6-1

195

Mar 28, 1989


I know I already mentioned him, but as a rookie who leads the sharks in goals he's obviously important. Someone needs to knock him around a little (CLEANLY) and get him off his game. 

Injuries


Phoenix Coyotes Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Taylor Pyatt other-excused 12/20/2010
Ilya Bryzgalov other-excused 12/16/2010


San Jose Sharks Injuries

Probable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Douglas Murray other-excused 12/23/2010

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