If the Phoenix Coyotes want to stay on top of the Pacific Division they are going to need to get at least a point tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a task that is going to be incredibly difficult. Tonight the Dallas Stars won against the Calgary Flames, giving them 75 points, tying them with the Coyotes. The one thing the Coyotes have going for them? They have a game in hand against Dallas, an advantage that is going to end after tomorrow, if the Coyotes don't get a point then Dallas will take the lead of the Pacific Division. The Coyotes are going to be fighting for something, and hopefully that will give them all the motivation they need to get a win against the Penguins.
The Coyotes have gone from having an amazing February to a lackluster beginning of March, something that they can turn around in Pittsburgh. The Desert Dogs are going to be going into Consol Energy Center coming off of two back to back loses and a road game might do them some good. Road games tend to let the team simplify their game and get back to basics that help them win, something that the Coyotes admit they are going to need to do to stay in this race. So far this season the Coyotes are 16-11-5 on the road. This will be the Coyotes last game against an Eastern Conference team of the regular season, and their only meeting against the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.
The Penguins have been great this year despite the injuries that they have had to suffer, including a long absent captain. They are currently second in the Atlantic Division with 81 points, and it should be noted that only one other team has more points then them in the entire Eastern Conference. They have dominated at home, with a record of 20-8-2 and they should not be taken lightly. In their last ten games they are 8-2-0, currently the best in the league as far as past 10s go. They have also only lost one game to a Pacific Division team, the Anaheim Ducks, which occurred last month.
Five For Winning
1. Play hungry. The Coyotes have to go into the game knowing that if they don't get a point they will lose their position as leader of the division, something that they do not want this close to the end of the season. At the start of February they were hungry too and look how that turned out.
2. Keep it simple. The Yotes don't need to play fancy, they just need to play to win. Hopefully that can work to their advantage.
3. Score first. In February the Desert Dogs were the comeback kids, in March not so much. Why even put themselves in a position where they need to come back, they should grab an early lead and keep it for the game.
4. Special Teams. The Penguins have the 5th best power play in the league with 20.2% and the 2nd best penalty kill with 88.9%. The Phoenix penalty kill is going to have to be on top of their game, and maybe Phoenix can get a power play goal in against a team that is probably going to underestimate them.
5. Just get a point. We like to say finish in regulation, we don't want to give the other team a point, but this will be the only game where that doesn't matter. Its the last game against a team in the East and with a point they will stay on top, for now. I know it seems like a low bar but against a team like the Penguins it may be the best we can hope for as plans, of course they need to play to win.
|2011 - Ray Whitney||20||39||59||23||24|
The Wizard, Ray Whitney, has been getting point after point lately, getting points in 17 of the last 20 games and getting 4 goals in the past 5 games. Also if it comes to a shootout you know he is going to be up first, he was amazing against Vancouver and pretty much every shootout.
|2011 - Steve Sullivan||13||24||37||-5||14|
Its hard to pick just one player on the Penguins who is going to make a difference, honestly all of them are pretty dangerous. Case in point, Steve Sullivan, the guy who is a minus 5 is on a seven game point streak which includes 3 goals and 8 assists. This game may very well turn into a battle of the veteran left wingers.
Likely Starting Goalies
|2011 - Mike Smith||52||3041||29||16||116||2.29||1556||1440||.925||4|
Despite the recent losses Mike Smith is still the best goalie that the Coyotes have. He helped the team win some crucial games last month, lets see if he can find whatever that was and bring it into this month. Hopefully he will get plenty of support from his team as well.
|2011 - Marc-Andre Fleury||54||3157||34||14||122||2.32||1412||1290||.914||3|
Marc-Andre Fleury has won his past 5 starts, he is the Penguins starting goalie, and he been playing great during that time. He is the second winningest goaltender in the NHL right now, and the most goals he has allowed the other team to score so far this season is 5, on a game they won.
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries
Pittsburgh Penguins Injuries
As always you can head over to PensBurgh to get their side of the story, and you can always come back here tomorrow for the game day thread.