Phoenix Coyotes @ Montreal Canadiens Preview: Creatures of Hab-it

Richard Wolowicz

What do the Coyotes need to do to beat Les Habitants in Montreal?

The Coyotes find themselves in unfamiliar territory this week. They are North of the Border and East of the Mississippi for a trio of games against Eastern Canadian opponents. The first team they will match up against is the most successful franchise in the NHL: the Montreal Canadiens.

Matchup At a Glance

Phoenix Coyotes Montreal Canadiens
Points 41 (5th Pacific) 43 (2nd Atlantic)
Goals Per Game 3.12 (4th) 2.46 (21st)
Goals Allowed Per Game 3.06 (25th) 2.06 (2nd)
Power Play Percentage 21.1% (7th) 21.5% (6th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 78.3% (26th) 86.7% (4th)

Phoenix Coyotes

Today's visit to the Bell Center will be the Coyotes' first since October of 2010. After a very hot start to the season, the Coyotes have cooled off some; in their past 10 games, the Coyotes have a 4-5-1 record. Although near .500 hockey is not the worst of fates, it is enough to put them out of the playoff picture in the absurdly competitive Western Conference.

From a production standpoint, Phoenix has not had their best players consistently providing points. Radim Vrbata has one assist in his last five games, and Martin Hanzal has gone pointless in his last six. Although the Coyotes have managed to survive their goalless droughts thanks to the likes of Mike Ribeiro, Rob Klinkhammer, Mikkel Boedker, and even Paul Bissonnette, Hanzal and Vrbata are two players who need to produce consistently for the Coyotes to have success.

Montreal Canadiens

Though they don't see each other often, Montreal must enjoy playing Phoenix. The Habs have not lost to the Coyotes since December 9th, 1998. Montreal is getting it done with defense: they give up very few goals at even strength or on the power play. Players like P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov on the back end are a big reason why Montreal is battling with perennial rivals Boston for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Habs weakness, however, comes on offense. Their 21st ranked offense in the NHL has had a considerably rougher time as of late; in their past six games, the Canadiens have managed to score three or more goals in a game only once. Although their record over that stretch is an even 3-3-0, low offensive production is generally not conducive to winning many games in a row.

For more on the Canadiens, be sure to check out Eyes On The Prize.

Keys to the Game

  • No Penalties - Montreal is excellent on the power play, which also serves to highlight how problematic their even strength scoring is. Phoenix would be better off not giving the Habs the man advantage and not giving them space to work with.
  • Contain Their Speed - The Habs are a very quick team; players like Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk may not be big but they can get through the neutral zone quickly. The Coyotes' defense has been caught flat-footed at various points in the season; they can't afford to be tonight.
  • Get Garbage Goals - Because the defense is so stingy, the Coyotes should not give Carey Price or Peter Budaj easy looks at the puck. Justin Peters in the Carolina game had a lot of chances to see shots on the way in. Screen the goaltender, find the soft spots, capitalize on rebounds, and take two points out of this game.

Players to Watch


Antoine Vermette

#50 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

198

Jul 20, 1982



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Antoine Vermette 9 10 19 5 18

The Quebec native has some familiarity with Montreal from his time with the Ottawa Senators, but more importantly his skills in the faceoff circle will be essential, especially if the Coyotes are shorthanded.


Alex Galchenyuk

#27 / Center / Montreal Canadiens

6-1

203

Feb 12, 1994



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Alex Galchenyuk 10 12 22 -1 16

For Coyotes fans, this will be the first look at a guy who may be wearing a different shade of red, white, and blue come February. Galchenyuk is fast and skilled; Phoenix will need to contain him as best they can in the neutral zone.

Projected Starting Goaltenders


Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982



GP MIN W L OT GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Mike Smith 27 1572 14 7 5 78 2.98 874 796 .911 0

Mike Smith only gave up two goals in the loss to Carolina. Hopefully this is the beginning of a return to form for the Coyotes' netminder, who will likely go tonight.


Carey Price

#31 / Goalie / Montreal Canadiens

6-3

212

Aug 16, 1987



GP MIN W L OT GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Carey Price 27 1589 15 10 2 53 2.00 816 763 .935 2

Carey Price has been pretty darn good this season. Considering he is in the mix for the starter's job at the Olympics, he picked a good time to play well. Neither of the two Habs goaltenders is a bad option at this point.

Injury Report

The Coyotes will once again be without their captain Shane Doan (unspecified illness), who did not travel with the team. Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) and Derek Morris (personal matter) are both trying to get back into game shape and will likely not be playing tonight either.

For the Canadiens, Davis Drewiske (shoulder surgery) will not be back until April, and both Rene Borque (upper body), and George Parros (concussion), are doubtful for tonight's game.

Puck Drop

Bit of an unusual time for Coyotes fans; the puck drops at 5:30 PM Arizona time. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen to it on KMVP 860 AM.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Five For Howling

You must be a member of Five For Howling to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Five For Howling. You should read them.

Join Five For Howling

You must be a member of Five For Howling to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Five For Howling. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker