The Phoenix Coyotes head into Dallas on Friday night coming off back to back games in which they gained points. Speaking of back to back, Friday's game against the Stars is the first of a back to back home and home with Stars. The teams combined for 7 goals in their only meeting so far this season on opening night. 4 of the goals were on the power play.
The Desert Dogs have looked more like a ward at a hospital than a hockey team this past week, so the fact they have been able to salvage points this week is a bit of a bonus. The better news is the injured players appear to be healing. Mike Smith is expected back on Friday and he could be joined in the lineup at some point this weekend by Steve Sullivan, Rostislav Klesla, and Martin Hanzal. The return of Sullivan and Hanzal would certainly be a boon to the team's offense.
Saturday's game will almost assuredly bring the return of Raffi Torres to the lineup.. However, when he does step back on the ice in Glendale, all eyes will be on him including those at the league offices. Torres will either have adjusted his game or he will quickly find his way to a meeting with Brendan Shanahan. The winger has the skill to tone down his physical play and still be effective.
Since the Desert Dogs last saw the Stars, Dallas finally signed top line center Jaime Benn, but lost second line center Derek Roy to injury. The Stars have lost 4 straight games, all to Central division opponents. They are struggling to put the puck in the net. The lack of a skilled second line centerman in Derek Roy's absence certainly isn't be helping matters.
Five for Winning
Ignore ownership drama. Easier said than done, but if any coaching staff and team can do so it's this group. There is nothing they can do about the issue. All they can do is play hockey just like they have for the past 3 plus years.
Crash the net. Kari Lehtonen is not likely to give up a goal on shots he can see unless they are top shelf lasers.
Stay out of the box. The Yotes have taken their fair share of ‘dumb' penalties so far this season including a couple of too many men on the ice ones this week. The Stars now have a dangerous power play with Whitney and Jagr on the roster. No need to activate it again like they did on opening night.
Contain JJ.. Jaromir Jagr torched the Coyotes with 2 goals and 2 assist in the season opener. The Coyotes best bet to stop him is to deny him the puck. Once he has it it's extremely hard to get it away from his big body.
Don't give them confidence. Phoenix has cleaned up a lot of their defensive mistakes this past week mistakes and Dallas has had trouble scoring. The Yotes need to keep up their strong play in their own zone and hopefully frustrate the Stars in the process.
Players To Watch
Vrbata had 2 goals and an assist in the team's first meeting. He hasn't scored a goal since then. The return of his centerman Martin Hanzal would likely boost the winger's chances of scoring again.
Dec 24, 1985
Can Johnson keep up his hot play since being recalled from Portland?
The former all-star may be 40 years old, but he's still in incredible shape. Like Vrbata, the only goal's Jagr has scored so far this season were in the opener.
The former first round pick is expected to be making his NHL debut this weekend. The Stars didn't call up the highly touted defensemen to watch games from the press box.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
Smith may get the start in one or both of the games. Expect to see Jason Labarbera if Smith isn't the starter in one of them. Smitty needs to be a bit sharper than he was at the start of the season.
Lehtonen has been solid in the games he's played against Phoenix since he came to Dallas. The Coyotes are going to need to crash the net, because anything he can see he'll likely stop. The Coyotes only scored one goal at even strength on him in the opener. The Dallas netminder was pulled late in the Stars 4-1 loss to the Wings on Tuesday night.
Projected Lines & Pairings
Trying to project lines for the Coyotes with all the injuries and Torres coming back is near impossible. We'll project a healthy forward lineup for good luck. Expect Torres to play left wing on the 3rd or 4th lines on Saturday.
If Klesla is healthy he'll play with Schlemko.
Mike Smith is expected to play. Martin Hanzal, Steve Sullivan and Rusty Klesla are all questionable. Matthew Lombardi is out.
Derek Roy is out.