Calgary Flames @ Phoenix Coyotes preview: Glendale burning

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

After a hard fought loss to the Boston Bruins, the Phoenix Coyotes return to Glendale in hopes of securing two valuable points from the red hot Calgary Flames.

Calgary Flames

Last night the Flames did the Coyotes a solid by dropping the the Dallas Stars in a 4-3 shootout win. It was the second consecutive win for Calgary and came right on the heels of beating the Anaheim Ducks 7-2 just a few nights prior. In terms of wins and losses, the post-break Calgary Flames look very similar to the Coyotes with key wins followed up by tough losses that should have been wins.

Against the Yotes, the Flames are 2-2 with each win coming at home and each loss here in Glendale, including a shutout by Thomas Greiss. If Calgary wants to win they need to find a way to overcome Phoenix's home ice advantage and generate more scoring opportunities. A tougher look in the face off circle wouldn't be bad either with the Flames being at 44.3% against the Coyotes this season, which is lower than their personal average and much lower than the New Jersey Devils' league low.

Phoenix Coyotes

Thursday night's game against Boston was less than pretty. A 2-1 loss against a league leader isn't the worst thing in the world, but when you're in a wild card race against a team like the Stars every single point matters. Calgary helped out in that respect last night, with Dallas now at 75 points to the Coyotes' 73, but the Stars still have a game in hand.

That makes tonight's game all the more important. With a tough game against the Los Angeles Kings coming up and rematches against the Panthers and Bruins the Yotes need a good spot to start the week on. In their last home game against the Flames Thomas Greiss found a way to turn a divisional match into a 60-minute goal-tending clinic and hopefully the Coyotes can find that same groove tonight.


Calgary Flames

Phoenix Coyotes

Points

61 (6th in Pacific)

73 (4th in Pacific)

Shots per Game

26.7 (28th in NHL)

31.3 (Tied-8th)

PP / PK Percentage

14.8% (24th) / 81.9% (16th)

20.5% (8th) / 79.7% (27th)

Face off Percentage

46.3% (29th)

51.6% (7th)

Keys to the Game

  • Home Sweet Home: The Coyotes are back home after a rough road trip where they killed it in Florida but couldn't quite find the right stuff to beat Boston or Washington. Now back at home for a night before heading out to LA, it's a good opportunity to regroup and find the right groove once again. So far this seasonm the Coyotes have one both home games against the Flames, that advantage just might be enough help to give the Desert Dogs the edge they'll need.
  • Short-hand Verms: Antoine Vermette has found a bit of a niche outside the face off circle scoring shorthanded goals. The Flames' power play percentage is abysmal to say the least and one can only hope that another shortie could come out of what looks more like a two-minute Flames defensive break. But to do it, they'll need to win in the circle.
  • Face/off: As mentioned before, the Flames are next to the bottom in faceoff percentage and against the Coyotes only 44.3%. If the Coyotes can capitalize on these faceoff wins to keep the puck in the offensive zone or out of their own zone, they will find it much easier to win this tilt. Vermette and Mike Ribeiro will be key in this respect as the top centers, but a solid effort from Kyle Chipchura and David Moss (or anyone else that might touch the paint) would be a huge step forward.

Players to Watch

Mike Cammalleri

#13 / Left Wing / Calgary Flames

5-9

190

Jun 08, 1982

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Mike Cammaleri 19 9 28 -23 22

The 31-year-old winger has four goals in his last three games but has yet to score against the Coyotes this season.

Radim Vrbata

#17 / Right Wing / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

194

Jun 13, 1981

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Radim Vrbata 19 27 46 -4 20

Radim Vrbata has six points in his last five games including four goals. Even with Martin Hanzal and Martin Erat out of the picture he's found all kinds of ways to score since the trade deadline.

Likely Starting Goaltender

Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982

GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Mike Smith 57 3320 24 20 10 148 2.67 1724 1576 .914 3

Mike Smith may have allowed two goals in the first period against the Boston Bruins but he quickly settled back down and didn't allow any more throughout the rest of the game. If he can make a similar yet more solid effort this game is sure to be a win for the Coyotes.

Injury Report

Forwards Hanzal and Erat are day-to-day as well as defenseman David Schlemko. Zbynek Michalek was not at practice this morning and is questionable to play.

Calgary starter Karri Ramo is on injured reserved alongside David Jones as Markus Granlund, Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman are still day-to-day. Forward Matt Stajan remains on leave after the loss of his newborn son.

Puck Drop

Faceoff is at 7 p.m. at Jobing.com Arena. If you can't make it, the game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and heard on 92.3FM KTAR.

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