Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
After an acceptable 3 game series against the Anaheim Ducks in whcih the Phoenix Coyotes walked away with 4 of 6 points and an embarrassing 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Coyotes look to regain their form against the division rival Dallas Stars. This will be the final meeting between these two teams, with the Coyotes record against the Stars currently 1-1-1.
The Coyotes have not been playing their best hockey as of late, and although they have found ways to win against the Ducks and the Canucks, they have also lost against teams they could have beaten including the Ducks, the Blues, and the Wild. Part of this seems to be that the team is giving up far more goals than they did last season, having given up at least 4 goals in 5 of the past 7 games, due to a combination of costly turnovers, weak defense, and below average goaltending. Injuries haven't helped either, Radim Vrbata has been out since February 16, and with the Coyotes recently recalling Rob Klinkhammer it seems unlikely that he will return tonight. The Coyotes are not out of the playoff race though, and if they are able to tighten up on defense and pull out a victory they will be in a much better position.
Dallas has been okay in their past few games, they are 5-4-1 in their past 10 and are coming off impressive wins against the LA Kings and the Blues. While the Coyotes have given up 4 goals in 5 of their last 7 games, the Stars have scored 4 goals in 4 of their last 5, which could make for a potentially dangerous situation. The Stars are actually a similar team to the Coyotes this season, their stats over the season are fairly comparable, and they are currently over one point above the Coyotes in the standings.
Five For Winning:
1. Score First: This shouldn't need explanation, the Coyotes have been letting the other team score first and they have been chasing the game because of it. It's time to break that trend and notch the first goal.
2. Don't Give Up the Lead: While scoring first is important, maintain the lead is much more important. Granted the Coyotes have shown their ability to come back from a deficit in games they have not been able to keep the lead, and it has cost them.
3. Tighten Up the Defense: The Yotes were successful last season because they played smart, good defensive hockey, but for whatever reason they seem to have had difficulty getting into that rhythm this season. Hopefully the losses to the Ducks and Blues have finally woken this team up and showed that them that they need to do what they do best.
4. Control the Rebounds: Mike Smith needs to be better and swallowing up the puck and not giving up the juicy rebounds and the team needs to get better and clearing the rebounds and getting the pucks out of the slot, preferably out of the zone.
5. Win: This requires no further explanation. The Desert Dogs need to come out of this with 2 points and stop the bleeding.
Players to Watch:
Martin Hanzal currently leads the Coyotes in goals, but he has been quiet since returning from injury notching only an assist in the game against St. Louis. Since he has returned he has averaged about 17:54 per game and had 8 shots is his first game back. He has 2 goals and 2 assists against the Stars this season.
Jarogmir Jagr continues to prove that guys over 40 can still be effective hockey players, leading the Stars in goals, points, power play goals, and shots. He was extremely impressive in the first game against the Coyotes with 2 goals and 2 assists and he had the shoot out winner in the Stars overtime win against the Yotes.
Likely Starting Goalies:
Mike Smith hasn't played well the past few games he's been in net and the team in front of him hasn't done him any favors. He is still a great goaltender and if he can clean up his mistakes he can hopefully play like he did last season. If he can't, then the Coyotes may be in trouble.
Kari Lehtonen has played great against the Coyotes in his career with a 1.64 GAA and a 2-1-0 record since coming back from a lower body injury. His first game back though he allowed 4 goals but has tightened up since then limiting the Kings to 2 goals and the Blues to 1.
David Schlemko and Radim Vrbata remain on the injured reserve list. Although there has been speculation Vrbata may be returning soon, the fact that Klinkhammer was brought up from Portland may suggest that he is still not ready to return.
Ray Whitney has not played a game with the Stars since February 1st. Brendan Morrow is out as well.
Remember to come back later today to check out the game day thread and you can head over to Defending Big D to see the Stars perspective.