2014 has not been a particularly happy new year for the Coyotes. They were shutout for the first time all season in the opening game of the year and followed that up with something they have done far too many teams this season, blow a third period lead. For all that, the Coyotes do still sit in the final wild card spot in the west. Now, the Calgary Flames will come to Glendale and, though they are struggling at the moment, the Flames haven't been an easy matchup for the Coyotes recently.
By the Numbers
|Calgary Flames||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Points||36 (6th Pacific)||49 (5th Pacific)|
|Goals per game||2.31 (27th)||2.90 (7th)|
|Goals against per game||3.07 (27th)||3.00 (24th)|
|Power play percentage||14.2 (26th)||18.4 (14th)|
|Penalty kill percentage||81.8(16th)||78.1 (26th)|
The Flames come to Glendale coming off of a victory over Colorado that snapped their four game losing skid. Losers of eight of their last 10 games, the Flames aren't exactly setting the world on fire. But one thing they have done well this season is play strong against Phoenix. Following a six game losing streak against the Coyotes from November of 2010 to February of 2012, the Flames have won five of the last seven matchups between these teams, including a 4-1 victory on the 4th of December.
The Flames rank in the bottom third of the league for goals scored and goals allowed, but it would be a mistake for the Coyotes to overlook them. Jiri Hudler is having a fantastic season with 33 points in 41 games, Mark Giordano is back healthy and producing with 17 points in 23 games and rookie Sean Monahan is proving himself straight out of juniors. The Flames play an aggressive forechecking game that attempts to pressure opponents into turnovers. It leaves them vulnerable in their own end, especially with their less than stellar goaltending, but it could be just the recipe for success against Phoenix.
The Coyotes have lost two straight games and eight of their last ten. After starting the season without a regulation loss in their first 11 games at home, they are 2-4-1 in their last seven at Jobing.com Arena. Much of their recent struggles can be attributed to their offensive woes since the start of December. In that time, they have scored 40 goals in 15 games (2.67 per game) but over a quarter of those goals were scored in two six goal games.
The Coyotes did get some help back on that front against the Flyers on Saturday night with the return of Shane Doan. The Captain took 23 shifts and skated for over 18 minutes giving the Coyotes an emotional lift that didn't pay off in the final result. Hopefully as he gets his legs back, so too will his game return to the form that saw him on pace for a possible career year.
Keys to the Game
- Special teams. The Coyotes power play has been awful recently, going 3-for-34 in the past 10 games for an 8.8% success rate. The penalty kill had been better until the last two games, against the Blue Jackets and Flyers, as three of the eight goals allowed were on the PK. The specialty units need to start upping their game to get the Coyotes back on a winning streak.
- Home Cooking. Get the crowd excited and on your side early. There will be more than a fair share of Canadians at this game cheering for the Flames. The Coyotes would do well to give them little to cheer about and start fast like they did against Edmonton a week ago. Just without the last minute letdown.
- Goaltending. The Coyotes need a big game from their goalie and need to take advantage of the weakness in the other end more than they did the last time these two teams played. The Coyotes outshot the Flames 30-18 in that contest but were beaten 4-1. Another 30 shots would be fine, but against the Flames' goaltending it needs to result in more than 1 goal or it will be a long night.
Players to Watch
|2013 - Lee Stempniak||6||8||14||-19||22|
While Stempniak's overall numbers for the season aren't great, the former Coyote makes this list for the way he comes up big against his old employers. Stempniak has played the Coyotes five times since being traded to Calgary for Daymond Langkow, and while he earned no points in that first encounter, he has three goals and two assists in those games including scoring in each of the last three games. Stopping him would be a nice change of pace for Phoenix and be a nice start to a victory.
|2013 - Keith Yandle||6||22||28||-5||33|
Keith Yandle will be counted on to produce big tonight with Oliver Ekman-Larsson ruled out of the lineup. Yandle had a key turnover against the Flyers that resulted in the game winning goal. As if that wasn't enough to motivate a big game from the Bostonian tonight, Brian Burke, one of the architects of Team USA and one of the biggest detractors of Yandle's inclusion on that squad, will be in the building. Now would be as good a night as any for Yandle to show the world (and Burke) exactly what the United States will be missing in Sochi.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
|2013 - Reto Berra||18||1048||5||11||51||2.92||527||476||.903||0|
Karri Ramo got the start last night in Denver, so Berra will more than likely be manning the pipes tonight. Berra has lost five of his last six starts and has never faced the Coyotes.
|2013 - Thomas Greiss||8||382||4||2||14||2.20||188||174||.926||0|
Greiss will get the start, giving Mike Smith some much needed rest. The German goalie has been good this season and looks to get the Yotes back in the win column.
The Flames will be without Curtis Glencross (ankle), Blair Jones (knee) and Kris Russell (knee). David Jones didn't play against Colorado due to an eye injury and his status for tonight is questionable. Lee Stempniak was questionable against the Avalanche as well, but played 16 minutes and added an assist.
The Coyotes will be without the services of Oliver Ekman-Larsson for another game as he has been ruled out for tonight. Zbynek Michalek skated alone yesterday morning for the first time since his injury and seems to be progressing towards a return in time for the Olympics.
The game will start at 7 p.m. Arizona time and will be televised on FSAZ+ and broadcast over the radio waves on KMVP 860 am.