After a dazzling 9-0-1 record at the friendly confines of Jobing.com Arena, the Yotes have dropped their last two (including their first home regulation loss on the season). However, Saturday night's game will be sold out and the atmosphere in Glendale will feel similar to that of opening night as the Coyotes hope to end their home skid and win their second consecutive game.
#Coyotes have broken a franchise record for single game revenue for tomorrow night vs Chicago. SRO tickets remain at just $22. 480-563-PUCK— Anthony LeBlanc (@anthonydleblanc) November 29, 2013
Teams at a Glance
|Phoenix Coyotes||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Points||34 (4th Pacific)||42 (1st Central)|
|Goals Per Game||3.16 (4th)||3.44 (T-1st)|
|Goals Against Per Game||3.08 (24th)||2.67 (17th)|
|Power Play Percentage||22.1% (6th)||20.0% (11th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||76.7% (27th)||74.3% (29th)|
Beyond the expected sell-out crowd, when the Blackhawks come to town - the games have a little extra passion associated with them.
"I think anytime you play the Stanley Cup champion from the previous year it's a little special," Radim Vrbata said.
The reason these games feel so special stems from the 2012 Western Conference Quarter Final match-up which featured five overtime games, the Andrew Shaw hit on Mike Smith and the Raffi Torres hit on Marian Hossa, all in a six-game series won by the Coyotes.
Is it a rivalry?
"I think so," Keith Yandle said. "Even if you look at the times that we played them, it's always hard fought games."
Phoenix will finally match-up with a penalty kill worse than their own in a game where special teams could make all the difference. It's also rare that Phoenix ranks above Chicago on the power play. If things hold to form, the Coyotes will have a slight special teams advantage they will need to exploit against the supremely talented Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks arrive in Arizona after defeating the Dallas Stars 2-1 in a shootout the night before for their fifth consecutive win. Chicago is led by the usual suspects of Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and the Patricks - Kane and Sharp. They are the hottest team in the NHL at the moment and have played almost as well on the road (10-3-1) as they have at home (9-1-3).
Chicago has already beaten Phoenix this season, 5-4 in a shootout in the Windy City. Saturday's tilt is the second of three meetings between these two teams, with the final one in Arizona just before the Olympic break. The Blackhawks look to clinch the season series with a regulation win.
For more on the Blackawks check out Second City Hockey.
Keys to the Game
- Stay out of the box - Phoenix's putrid penalty kill combined with the skill the 'Hawks throw out on the power play, could be lethal for the Yotes on Saturday. The Coyotes also have to find a way to keep the puck out of their net when they're down a man.
- Start strong - It doesn't have to mean heading into the first intermission with a lead, but the Coyotes can not afford to fall behind two or three goals early on as they have so often this season.
Feed off the crowd - A playoff-like atmosphere inside Jobing.com Arena should give a boost to the Yotes, especially if they get a lead.
Players to Watch
|2013 - Radim Vrbata||8||13||21||1||8|
Vrby is heating up with eight points in his last six games that started with an assist in Chicago a couple weeks ago.
|2013 - Duncan Keith||1||21||22||11||4|
The veteran defenseman is playing a ton of minutes and is in the midst of a six-game point streak (0-7-7). He's scored a point in all but one game in the last three weeks.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Mike Smith||19||1107||12||3||53||2.87||637||584||.917||0|
Smith should back between the pipes for the Coyotes after resting since Monday. The 6' 4" goalie dominated the Blackhawks in the 2012 playoffs but has struggled against them since.
|2013 - Antti Raanta||2||107||1||0||4||2.24||38||34||.895||0|
On the back-to-back, Coach Q may elect to start back-up netminder Antti Raanta in place of Corey Crawford. Raanta won his first career start on Wednesday against the Calgary Flames, giving up two goals on 22 shots.
Once again, the Coyotes will be without the services of Lauri Korpikoski and Zbynek Michalek. Shane Doan did not practice on Friday but it as considered a maintenance day and he should dress for this game.
Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. The game can be watched on FOX Sports Arizona Plus and heard on KMVP 860 AM.