The Phoenix Coyotes make their first trek into the Eastern Conference when they visit the New York Islanders tonight. The last time Phoenix played in Uniondale was December 18th, 2010, when the Coyotes beat the Isles 4-3 in a shootout.
Match-Up At a Glance
|Phoenix Coyotes||New York Islanders|
|Goals Per Game||2.50 (T-15th)||2.50 (T-15th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||2.50 (T-10th)||2.50 (T-10th)|
|Power Play Percentage||25% (T-8th)||25% (T-8th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||62.5% (27th)||75% (23rd)|
|Points||2 (5th Pacific)||3 (3rd Metropolitan)|
After an emotional opening night win over the New York Rangers, the Coyotes struggled mightily out of the gate in San Jose. They surrendered three goals in the first period and only generated one power play, falling to the Sharks 4-1.
Phoenix will also be looking for more production out of their offensive stalwarts. The top line of Shane Doan, Mike Ribeiro, and Mikkel Boedker has yet to register a point. These are players that need to start contributing on the score sheet, on a regular basis for the Coyotes to be competitive night in and night out.
New York Islanders
Coyotes fans have fond memories of the last time the Coyotes played the Islanders, as that was the game Shane Doan recorded his long overdue hat trick. The team the Islanders are skating now is significantly better than that squad.
John Tavares is an elite scorer in the NHL, and the team signed criminally underrated defenseman Travis Hamonic to a 7-year contract with a team friendly $3.85M cap hit. With players like Michael Grabner and Lubomir Visnovsky also on the roster, it's easy to see why this team gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a run for their money in the playoffs last season.
(For a more in-depth look at the New York Islanders, be sure to check out their SB Nation site, Lighthouse Hockey)
Keys to the Game
1. Create Penalties - The Coyotes only had one power play against the Sharks, and it's a big reason why they could not climb back into the game. Even if they don't score, getting on the power play is a good way of forcing the other team to play defensive hockey.
2. Earn the Big Bucks - Mike Ribeiro got a nice sum of money to come to the Coyotes, and Mikkel Boedker is looking to get a similar payday a couple of years down the line. For that to happen, they need to score.
3. Keep Rolling Four Lines - The play of Rob Klinkhammer, Kyle Chipchura, and Chris Brown has been a significant improvement over the fourth line of last season. As long as the fourth line plays well and the Coyotes keep the game close, Dave Tippett will be able to continue to use his entire bench.
Players to Watch
#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes
Jul 17, 1991
|2013 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson||1||1||2||2||2|
OEL was the Coyotes' lone offensive bright spot last Saturday night against the Sharks, and his two way skill makes him a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate. The biggest question for him tonight though is whether or not he plays.
#40 / Left Wing / New York Islanders
Oct 05, 1987
|2013 - Michael Grabner||2||1||3||2||0|
The 26 year old Austrian is the team's current goals and points leader. He has a lot of offensive talent that the Coyotes will need to account for.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2013 - Mike Smith||2||119||1||1||4||2.02||74||70||.946||0|
The Mike Smith we've seen so far this year is closer to the 2011-12 version than the 2013 version. With three days in between games, it would be hard to imagine him not playing tonight.
#20 / Goalie / New York Islanders
Jul 25, 1975
|2013 - Evgeni Nabokov||2||130||1||0||5||2.31||58||53||.914||0|
After a rocky start to their relationship a couple of seasons ago, Nabokov has settled in nicely as the team's #1 netminder. The 38 year old has had an impressive career thus far, and is continuing to do good work on Long Island.
For the Coyotes, things are suddenly looking a little thin on the blue-line. Rostislav Klesla (concussion) is on the road trip with the team, though it isn't clear when he will be cleared to play. Even more problematic, both Derek Morris & Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper body) did not practice yesterday, and both are considered questionable tonight. Paul Bissonnette will serve the final game of his 3-game suspension tonight.
The Islanders are relatively injury free. Cal Clutterbuck (leg laceration) is the only player who will not play in this game due to injury, and he will likely be back soon.
By virtue of Daylight Savings Time, the puck drops at 4 PM Arizona time. The game can be viewed on CW6 (for those in the Phoenix area), and can be heard on KMVP 860 AM.