The Coyotes started the season with the power of home-cooking on their side, winning nine of their first ten in Glendale. After Saturday night's shellacking by the Blackhawks, the tide has turned as they have lost their last three at Jobing.com Arena, including two in a row in regulation. An extended road trip could be just the prescription for a case of home weariness and the Coyotes begin a four game excursion on the road in Edmonton tonight.
Teams at a Glance
|Points||34 (4th Pacific)||20 (7th in Pacific)|
|Goals per Game||3.12 (4th)||2.54 (19th)|
|Goals Against per Game||3.15 (25th)||3.36 (28th)|
|Power Play %||22.0 (6th)||18.4 (15th)|
|Penalty Kill %||76.8 (27th)||82.5 (17th)|
The Coyotes enter play tonight having struggled quite a bit for the first time this season. After a scorching hot start, the Desert Dogs have gone 2-3-2 in their past seven games. In fairness, those games have come against the elite of the Western Conference, but it shows the gap that currently exists for the Coyotes to close to reach that level of play. With the next three games coming against teams below them in the standings, it's time for the Coyotes to get back on another winning streak.
The offense hasn't been the problem during the recent struggles, as the Coyotes have averaged 3.14 goals per game in the last seven contests. The defense has been abysmal though, allowing 3.57 goals per game in that same stretch. A big part of that defensive ineptitude has been a struggling penalty kill. The Coyotes have allowed six power play goals in the last seven games on 21 chances for a kill rate of 71.4%. That is just not good enough and the Coyotes have to start improving those numbers immediately. Tonight's game in Rexall Place would be a good starting point for change as the Oilers have struggled to put together consistent offensive efforts this season, surprising given their cupboard of young dynamic forwards.
The Oilers enter play tonight last in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference with only 20 points through 28 games played. The goaltending has been a big part of that as Devan Dubnyk and Jason Labarbera both started the season about as bad as possible. It was so bad that the Oilers exchanged one former Coyote goalie for another, sending Barbs to their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City and signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a one year contract. The ploy may have worked however as the Oilers have been playing better hockey recently. They are 5-2-0 in their past seven games and are coming off a three game road trip where they were victorious in two of the games including a shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Sunday.
The teams have met once already this season with the Coyotes winning 5-4 in a Saturday matinee on October 26. After tonight's game, there will be three more match-ups between the freshly minted division rivals.
Keys to the Game
- Start strong. One of the biggest problems for the Coyotes this season has been having very poor opening periods. The first 20 minutes of this road trip need to set the tone for the rest of the way and it's imperative for the Yotes to start strong and give themselves a chance to use their strong play in the second and third periods to pad leads instead of playing catch up.
- It's all about the details. There hasn't been one large issue that has haunted the Coyotes this season as much as there have been multiple little things that have cause their problems. One guy overplays too much one direction and there is a huge hole on the ice for the other team to take advantage, one moment of mental fatigue leads to a penalty that doesn't get killed, instances like that. Oftentimes it's the little things that hold you back and the Coyotes need to concentrate on those and get back into their system and structure.
- No zeroes here. The Coyotes are one of only two NHL teams (Chicago the other) that haven't seen a zero on either side of the scoreboard yet this year. While it's fantastic that the team hasn't been shutout, it points to the struggles that have come in their own end that they haven't earned one yet either. Tonight would be a great night for the latter to change.
Players to Watch
|2013 - Martin Hanzal||8||14||22||0||29|
Hanzal is having the best season of his career and has eight points in his last six games. He's also been a power play beast for a much improved Coyote unit, with two goals and five assists on the advantage.
He has six goals and six assists in 18 career games against the Oilers.
|2013 - David Perron||9||11||20||-2||22|
The Oilers youth corps of forwards has been good in the last seven games with Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov combining for nine goals and 18 assists. But the best forward for Edmonton recently has been Perron, scoring five goals and adding three assists in that time.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Mike Smith||19||1107||12||3||53||2.87||637||584||.917||0|
In all likelihood, Smith gets the start tonight and Greiss will man the pipes tomorrow in Calgary. The Coyotes need Smith to bounce back from a poor showing against the Blackhawks. It's been a tough year for Smith and he's only allowed two goals or fewer once in his last seven starts.
|2013 - Devan Dubnyk||21||1057||7||11||57||3.24||534||477||.893||1|
Most Coyotes fans were probably hoping to see Bryzgalov in the net for tonight's game, but he suffered an injury Sunday against Dallas and won't be available. So in steps Dubnyk, which may not be as nice a story as playing Bryz, but should be better for the team as Dubnyk has struggled mightily this season.
His career numbers versus the Coyotes aren't much better. He's 2-5-2 against Phoenix with a 2.97 goals against average.
Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek and forward Lauri Korpikoski have both resumed skating with the team and made the trip to Edmonton. However, neither is expected back in the lineup tonight, but returns are imminent for both which is a good sign.
The Oilers will be missing Tyler Pitlick and Philip Larsen as both are on IR. Ilya Bryzgalov is out with an upper body injury suffered Sunday which resulted in Jason Labarbera being recalled. Another former Coyote, Boyd Gordon, will also most likely miss tonight's match-up with a groin injury.
Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7:30pm Arizona time start and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona Plus. It will also be broadcast on KMVP 860 AM.