After two straight games of underwhelming 3rd period performances, the Coyotes put together a final 20 minutes for the ages in their last game on Saturday night. Entering the final frame trailing 2-1, the Yotes overpowered Detroit, getting goals from Mike Ribeiro and Martin Hanzal to take the lead early in the 3rd. Ribeiro would add his second of the evening for all the insurance the boys would need and then Mike Smith would provide the delicious icing to the cake with one of the most memorable moments in Coyote history.
The Coyotes have points in six straight games, going 4-0-2 in that stretch. Ribeiro is getting his footing, Hanzal and Radim Vrbata are clicking, and Antoine Vermette is centering a surprisingly effective line with Rob Klinkhammer and Shane Doan. All of these factors point to a team hitting their stride, but tonight's game is the definition of a "trap game". The Coyotes know that they will go to Los Angeles on Thursday for their regular season premiere against the Kings. The bad blood between those two teams is palpable. It would be easy for the Coyotes to look past a Calgary team expected by many to be the worst in the league. That would be a mistake because the Flames are not playing like a team looking to bottom out.
In what was expected to be a rebuilding season, the Flames have been a pleasant surprise in the opening weeks of the season going 4-2-2. New captain Mark Giordano has led the resurgence from the back end, ranking 15th in ice time for defenseman in the league and tied for second in points from the blueline with 9 entering action tonight. Nineteen year old center Sean Monahan is second for goals (6) and points (9) among NHL rookies and enters tonights game with points in 7 out of 8 contests.
The Flames have been one of the most aggressive teams offensively to open the season, ranking in the top-10 in both goals per game and power play percentage while being in the bottom 10 in penalties taken. They need to stay on the offensive because they are not a very good defensive team. The goaltending tandem of Karri Ramo and Joey MacDonald has been below average, as expected, and Calgary ranks in the bottom 5 of most defensive categories.
The Flames are coming off a big 3-2 road win against the Kings on Monday night, getting all three goals with the man advantage. Perhaps the Kings got caught looking ahead to the Coyotes on Thursday?
Keys to Winning
Focus. Coming off a huge win, preparing for a road tilt against your biggest rival with memories of the preseason fresh in your mind, one could expect the Coyotes to potentially take the Flames for granted. The leadership of this team needs to step up before the game and prepare them for what will be an opportunistic opponent.
Keep Doing What You're Doing. The Coyotes will enter play Tuesday night ranked 7th in the league in shots per game with 32.4 and 4th in face-off percentage, winning 55.1% of draws. The Flames are giving up over 30 shots per game and rank dead last in the face-off circles, winning a paltry 42.4%. If the Coyotes play their game, the advantages they have should give them the recipe for two points.
Stay Out of the Box. The Flames are coming off a game where they went 3 for 6 with the man advantage and are 6th in the league on the power play. The Coyotes have taken the sixth most penalties in the NHL. The penalty kill has improved with the return of Rusty Klesla to the lineup, but there's no sense in playing with fire.
#11 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes
Feb 20, 1987
|2013 - Martin Hanzal||2||6||8||-1||15|
Hanzal scored the game winning goal against the Red Wings and leads the team in points. He has points in 7 of the team's 9 games so far and is once again creating havoc with fellow Czech Radim Vrbata. He's also winning 51.2% of his face-offs.
#24 / Center / Calgary Flames
Jan 04, 1984
|2013 - Jiri Hudler||4||7||11||3||0|
There are plenty of players getting off to a good start for the Flames, but none have been hotter than Hudler. He has scored at least one point in all 8 games this season and currently ranks tied for 4th in the NHL with 11 points. Against the Kings, he had the primary assists on Mike Cammalleri's first goal of the season and T.J. Brodie's game winner in the final minute.
Likely Starting Goaltenders
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2013 - Mike Smith||8||466||4||2||22||2.83||262||240||.916||0|
After a couple of bumpy starts, Mike Smith is once again playing well in the Coyote net. He's allowed two goals in each of his last two starts, while stopping 68 of 72 shots for a .944 SV%.
Oh yeah, he's also on a goal scoring streak of one game. It'd be great if he got an opportunity to extend that streak.
#35 / Goalie / Calgary Flames
Feb 07, 1980
|2013 - Joey MacDonald||5||301||3||1||15||2.99||138||123||.891||0|
Karri Ramo got the victory last night in L.A., so the odds are in favor of MacDonald getting the start on the rear of the back to back situation. Despite his pedestrian numbers on the season, MacDonald is a scary foe for the Yotes. He beat them twice last season as a Flame, on February 24 and April 12.
|10th (3.0)||Goals For||5th (3.3)|
|18th (2.8)||Goals Against||26th (3.4)|
|19th (15.6)||Power Play %||6th (23.5)|
|16th (81.6)||Penalty Kill %||30th (69.2)|
The Coyotes are healthy entering tonight's contest.
The Flames will likely be without David Jones and Matt Stajan. Mike Cammalleri returned to the lineup for the first time all year last night against the Kings and should play again tonight.
Tonight's game is set to begin at 7pm local time. It will be televised on FSAZ and will be broadcast on the radio on KMVP 860 AM.