USA TODAY Sports
The Phoenix Coyotes are winless on Thursday nights this year, but enter tonight's contest on a two-game win streak that has seen the team play some of it's best hockey of the year. One streak is ending tonight.
For the Phoenix Coyotes, this season has had a lot of elements of schizophrenia - probably too many as far as I'm concerned. For each offensively strong game, there's been one where nothing seemed to click. For each shutout, there's been a Mike Smith shellacking. Even through the three game series with the Ducks that saw the 'Yotes take 4 of a possible 6 points and immediately preceded the team's first meeting with the St. Louis Blues just a week ago, the team showed a bit of everything.
But if there is one thing that's been a consistent trouble spot for this team, it's been Thursday night games. So far on the season, the Coyotes are a combined 0-5-0, and have been outscored in those five games by a total of 24-11. It's been downright ugly, and the Blues added to that ugliness with their 6-3 victory at Jobing.com Arena last week. As Coach Tippett said after that game "That wasn't our team right there . . . [We] didn't execute with the puck, [and] didn't defend real well." The Coyotes will look to improve upon those factors tonight.
Five For Winning
1. Score First. The Phoenix Coyotes under Coach Tippett have amassed a pretty ridiculous 108-13-16 when scoring the first goal. We know we say this one a lot, but the Coyotes are just a much better team when they aren't chasing the game.
2. Shake the Road Woes. The Coyotes are embarking on their longest road trip of the season (4 games) and currently have a 3-5-2 road record. It would do big things for this team (that has a lot of road games left) to come back from this trip with a .500 road record or better.
3. Puck Possession. As we discussed after the last road loss, the team's advanced metrics on the road show that they are not doing a good job of creating chances, a clear sign they are not possessing the puck enough...especially in the offensive end.
4. Play Your Game. Games between teams coached by Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett tend to be defensive battles, but that certainly wasn't the case last week. The Coyotes need to stay within their system to have the best chance for success.
5. No Injuries. Every team is the walking wounded to some extent this year, but the Coyotes seem to lose a player a game recently with Matthew Lombardi and Zbynek Michalek being the most recent victims (or in Lombo's case, repeat victim). While the players being called up have filled in admirably, it would be nice to get some time with our normal starters.
Players to Watch
|2012 - Rob Klinkhammer||2||2||0||2||2||2||0||0||1||6|
Talk about making a strong impression - Das Hammer joined Oleg Saprykin and Wojtek Wolski as the only Coyotes players to score goals in their first two games with the team. In addition to the goals, though, Klinky Klink Drinky Drink has made each shift count with his tenacious forecheck and ability to throw his weight around. He may be no spring chicken, but he's been a burst of needed energy for this squad.
|2012 - Patrik Berglund||26||13||4||17||-1||4||4||1||2||47|
Berglund is having an excellent season and exploited the 'Yotes for a couple of goals in their last meeting. Keeping him contained should be a key part of the Coyotes game plan.
Likely Starting Goalies
|2012 - Mike Smith||21||1193||11||7||58||2.92||575||517||.899||3|
|2012 - Jaroslav Halak||11||579||5||3||23||2.38||194||171||.881||2|
These are unconfirmed and the last time I did this I got them both wrong. Wouldn't expect Barbs over Smith tonight even considering Smith's less-than-stellar track record against the Central Division. As for St. Louis, Jake Allen or Brian Elliott are certainly also options with the team carrying 3 goalies currently on the roster. Allen backstopped the victory last week in Phoenix and may get the nod again.
Matthew Lombardi, upper body, unknown
Zbynek Michalek, unknown (too many blocked shots)
Radim Vrbata, broken foot, indefinite
David Schlemko, upper body, out
Vladimir Tarasenko, concussion, indefinite
Andy McDonald, left knee, day-to-day
Alexander Steen, shoulder, day-to-day
T.J. Oshie, upper body, doubtful