Last night the Coyotes managed to finish off the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the shootout. They will not have much time to sleep on their success, as they are back at it again tonight in Anaheim.
Series at a Glance
|Phoenix Coyotes||Anaheim Ducks|
|Points||24 (3rd Pacific)||25 (1st Pacific)|
|Goals Per Game||3.19 (T-6th)||3.19 (T-6th)|
|Goals Allowed Per Game||2.94 (24th)||2.44 (9th)|
|Power Play Percentage||18.6% (15th)||6.7% (30th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||80.6% (19th)||75.0% (T-28th)|
To say this game is big for the Coyotes would be an understatement. They sit tied with the San Jose Sharks just one point back of the Ducks for the best record in the NHL. They have won five consecutive games to continue one of the hottest starts in franchise history. And more importantly, they've gone back to winning games the way they are supposed to.
Since their 5-4 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators, the Coyotes have conceded just two goals per game. The defense has improved, and Mike Smith has done a much better job in net. As a result, the Coyotes are playing with a lead longer, and not giving up as many goals.
The Ducks picked up right where they left off from last season's Pacific Division winning year. They just returned from an eight game road trip in which they recorded points in their final six games. The Ducks have yet to lose a game at the Honda Center this season, and also have yet to lose a game against a Western Conference team not named the Colorado Avalanche.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Ducks have done it all at even strength. Their power play is an abject lesson in futility, converting a staggeringly low 6.7% of their chances. And you thought the Coyotes power play has been bad in recent years...
The penalty kill has not been a whole lot better. They are tied for 28th in the NHL in that regard, which means the special teams battles tonight will be absolutely crucial to winning this game.
Keys to the Game
- Finish Strong - The last time these two teams met, the Coyotes probably cost themselves a point by surrendering a very soft tying goal in the final few minutes of the 3rd. They can't do that again.
- Win Faceoffs - Phoenix got absolutely manhandled in the defensive zone last night; the Coyotes won a pitiful 8 out of 23 defensive zone faceoffs against the Canucks. With players like Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf in the Ducks lineup, the Coyotes need to get out of their zone consistently.
- Win the Special Teams Battles - Let's be honest: the Ducks power play is historically bad, and their penalty kill is pretty bad too. Getting one power play goal and not conceding any is a two goal shift that could go a long way in a regulation win.
Players to Watch
|2013 - Shane Doan||5||4||9||2||8|
Shane Doan is very quietly having a pretty good year for the Desert Dogs. His five goals are second on the team, and in the last five games the Captain has recorded three goals and two assists.
|2013 - Mathieu Perreault||5||8||13||8||4|
In recent years, the Ducks have been notorious for their lack of depth. Mathieu Perreault has gone a long way towards resolving that problem. He has a goal and three assists in his last three games after missing some time with an injury.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Mike Smith||14||796||9||2||37||2.79||456||419||.919||0|
Smith will be back in net for the second game of the back-to-back after stopping 31 shots last night.
UPDATE: Or not:
It's a huge game for both teams, so Smitty going again is not terribly surprising. That said, it's not like Greiss has been overworked recently.
|2013 - Jonas Hiller||10||571||6||2||24||2.52||258||234||.907||1|
Hiller hasn't exactly been lights-out but with a game like this on the calendar the Ducks will likely go with their #1 netminder.
The Ducks have quite a long list of injuries to deal with. Jakob Silfverberg (hand), Viktor Fasth (lower body), and Saku Koivu (head) are all on injured reserve, though it is possible that Koivu will come off tonight. Sheldon Souray (wrist) is likely out until December, and Matt Belesky (thumb) still has a couple of weeks to go. Sami Vatanen (upper body) and Teemu Selanne (mouth) are both listed as questionable for tonight's game, but Selanne will likely play.
For the Coyotes, Jeff Halpern (back) remains on IR. Defensemen David Schlemko (lower body) has not played in the previous two games, and Derek Morris (lower body) left last night's game early. Both are considered questionable for tonight.
Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, tonight's game will begin at 8:00 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on KTVK and listen to the game on KMVP 860 AM.