GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 23: Raffi Torres #37 of the Phoenix Coyotes skates with the puck under pressure from Teemu Selanne #8 of the Anaheim Ducks during the second period of the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on November 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Having been dismantled in consecutive games by the rival Red Wings and the league-leading Wild, our hometown hockey club spent the next three days stewing over those disheartening defeats. Considering that resiliency has become the Coyotes' trademark during head coach Dave Tippett's tenure, the extended time to regroup and recharge may not bode well for the cellar-dwelling Anaheim Ducks. Phoenix boasts an impressive 8-3-1 record following losses this year and will look to build on that trend tonight at the Honda Center. The 'Yotes take the ice at 8:00pm local time, and with a 2-0 advantage in the season series to date, there's no doubt the Desert Dogs will be determined to down the Ducks again.
The home team is riding a two-game losing streak of its own, and despite axing coach Randy Carlyle in favor of ex-Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, Anaheim has struggled to shake their season-long slump. Highlights have been few and far between this year for the Ducks, and fans have been left to celebrate sniper Teemu Selanne's scoring milestones rather than wins. Five for Winning after the jump...
Put the "Power" Back in Power Play: The Coyotes currently own an NHL-worst power play success rate of 10.9%, having converted on only 10 of their 92 man advantage opportunities. Tippett and his coaching staff simply cannot allow this disturbing trend to continue if this team hopes to emerge as a legitimate playoff threat. As has become the custom in recent years, Phoenix's power play has settled into a predictable pattern of perimeter passing to set up one-timers from the point. If casual fans can easily guess how the 'Yotes are going to attack the 5-on-4, opposing penalty-killers must be licking their chops. Tonight the Coyotes must open up their power play and allow speedsters like Lauri Korpikoski, Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata to utilize their playmaking abilities.
Mike Smith (or Jason LaBarbera) > Jonas Hiller: For long stretches of the season new netminder Mike Smith has excelled, playing at an all-star caliber while helping Phoenix fans forget about Ilya Bryzgalov. Smith's stellar play has leveled off just a bit in the last few contests and he has allowed 8 goals in his last 32 shot attempts during two blowout losses. If Smith is trusted with the start this evening the Coyotes have to protect the net at all times and prevent the defensive lapses which have occasionally plagued them this year. If backup Jason LaBarbera stands between the pipes instead, the team's priority on defensive integrity and Coyotes-style hockey should remain the same.
Overtime in the 1st Period: Coyotes fans know that this team's fate usually hinges on which way the 1-0 score swings. After their last defeat at the hands of the resurgent Minnesota Wild, the Coyotes fell to 2-10 on the year when their opponent tallies the game's first goal. Compare this to their sterling 13-1-3 mark when the 'Yotes notch the opening goal and you can see why the team should play with overtime intensity from the first shift forward.
Turn Turris Around: In the six games Kyle Turris has played since returning from his contact-related holdout, the controversial center has contributed as much as he did in the first 23: Zilch, zero and zip. With a stat line gaping with goose eggs and the Coyotes crashing to a 2-4-0 record upon his arrival, many fans are clamoring to trade Turris before his value plummets. While that decision is yet to be made, Turris' teammates need to do their part to get him going. Turris has shown flashes of his long trumpeted ability thus far, but 0 points and a -2 in the +/- column certainly haven't helped his cause. The Coyotes would receive a much needed morale boost if their standout holdout suddenly started to showcase the skills that his agent spent two months selling.
Bring Back the Biz Nasty: The Coyotes' resident tough guy and Twitter fiend Paul Bissonnette has been a healthy scratch for the last two games. Phoenix has been skated off the ice in both contests, losing in all phases of the game while the Red Wings and Wild ran roughshod with world-class play. In both instances, the Coyotes likely would have benefited from the physical presence and intimidation factor that Biz Nasty brings to the table. For tonight's game against the muckers and grinders that primarily make up the Ducks' last-place roster, here's hoping the Coyotes unleash the beast and let Biz Nasty do what he does best: Kick butt and take names.
Players to Watch: Coyotes defensemen Derek Morris has been a key figure in the team's revival during the last two seasons, but his play has dropped off dramatically so far this season. Sloppy defensive assignments, untimely penalties and a scoring drought have made Coyotes fans wince when Morris takes the ice, so he must begin to right the ship in tonight's game against a clearly inferior Ducks squad. Teemu Selanne is riding a 4-game point streak (1 G, 5 A) for the Ducks and the longtime Coyote-killer's 29 points lead the team. If Anaheim is to have any success tonight against a hungry Coyotes team, the toothless wonder will need to continue his torrid scoring streak.