Phoenix Coyotes vs. Buffalo Sabres preview: all I want for Christmas is two more points

USA TODAY Sports

The Coyotes end their Eastern Conference road trip in Buffalo with visions of a win streak dancing in their heads.

After Saturday afternoon's huge comeback win, the Coyotes have an opportunity to head home for the holidays on a high note. With a victory Monday night over the Buffalo Sabres, the Coyotes would earn five of a possible eight points and hold a two game winning streak for their pre-Christmas enjoyment.

Teams at a Glance

Phoenix Coyotes
Buffalo Sabres
Points 44 (5th in Pacific) 21 (8th in Atlantic)
Goals Per Game 3.03 (6th) 1.67 (30th)
Goals against Per Game 3.00 (25th) 2.89 (23rd)
Power Play Percentage 20.7 (8th) 12.3 (28th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 78.3 (25th) 80.5 (22nd)

Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes were 2:13 from having an absolutely disastrous road trip when Antoine Vermette saved their proverbial bacon. With Vermette's homecoming heroics, the Coyotes have a chance to salvage this road trip. The Coyotes received a huge boost from Lauri Korpikoski's return to the lineup and now that their is solid news on the ailment that has felled the Captain, Phoenix could be back at full strength after Christmas.

This afternoon's game has all the makings of a trap game though. The Coyotes need to avoid the temptation of overlooking the team with the worst record in the league and relaxing on the final game of a road trip. With a win today, the Coyotes could return to the top eight of the Western Conference standings.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres enter play Monday hoping to rebound from a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Boston Bruins. Buffalo has the worst record in the NHL, but has actually been playing pretty decent hockey recently, going 4-4-2 in their past ten games. Tonight's game also marks the third game of a six game series of alternating home and road for the Sabres.

Buffalo's big problem is that their offense has failed to provide any consistent scoring. The Sabres have many young players who have struggled to produce this season, like Johan Larsson, Luke Adam and Mikhail Grigorenko, but Zemgus Girgensons and Cody Hodgson have played well. Matt Moulson, whom the Sabres acquired in the Tomas Vanek trade, is the only member of the squad with 20 points or more.

Keys to the Game

  • Discipline. The Coyotes took 11 minors Saturday afternoon in Ottawa. Buffalo doesn't have a good power play, but the Coyotes penalty kill isn't any great shakes either.
  • Discipline. Oliver Ekman-Larsson took two minors against the Senators as did Mike Ribeiro and Martin Hanzal. Penalties are bad, but when three of your best players spend a combined 12 minutes in the box, you're hamstringing your team. Stay out of the box and stay on the ice.
  • Discipline. Noticing a pattern yet?

Players to Watch


Antoine Vermette

#50 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

198

Jul 20, 1982



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Antoine Vermette 12 10 22 6 18

Hat tricks aside, Vermette's effort Saturday may well have turned around the Coyotes season. A loss could have been devastating, but now they have momentum and confidence back. He's been a force in the face-off circle, playing the most minutes per game for him in five years and providing leadership in the absence of Shane Doan. Matt McConnell has liked to call him the Coyotes most valuable player to this point in the season, and I would be hard pressed to argue with him.


Tyler Ennis

#63 / Center / Buffalo Sabres

5-9

157

Oct 06, 1989



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Tyler Ennis 7 7 14 -8 16

With Cody Hodgson injured, Ennis becomes the Sabres de facto top forward. He's second on the team in goals and points behind the aforementioned Hodgson.

Projected Starting Goaltenders


Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Mike Smith 19 1107 12 3 53 2.87 637 584 .917 0

Smith has played well on this road trip, giving the Coyotes a chance to win in every game allowing only six goals in 130 minutes of action. He said he made an adjustment to his game before the Carolina game that preceded the road trip and feels more comfortable in net because of it, and the numbers he's posting seem to back up his claim.


Ryan Miller

#30 / Goalie / Buffalo Sabres

6-2

175

Jul 17, 1980



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Ryan Miller 25 1482 8 17 70 2.83 894 824 .922 0

Buffalo has spent much of the season splitting time in the pipes between Miller and Jhonas Enroth. Enroth manned the crease against the Bruins in defeat, so Miller should get the call. He's the Sabres big ticket trade item at the moment and he'd love to showcase his talent against a top ten offense.

Injury Report

The Coyotes will be without Shane Doan for yet another game, but there is hope he could return post Christmas break. The Sabres will be missing two Codys, Hodgson and McCormick. Cody McCormick broke his finger four games ago against the Flames and Hodgson followed suit two games later.

Puck Drop

The game is scheduled to begin at 5:00 pm Arizona time and will be televised on FSAZ+ and will be on the radio waves on KMVP 860 AM.

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