The Phoenix Coyotes are riding high, thanks in no small part to a 3-2 OT win against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. They will try and keep the good vibes going in Chicago tonight.
Matchup At a Glance
|Phoenix Coyotes||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Points||28 (2nd Pacific)||28 (1st Central)|
|Goals For Per Game||3.10 (6th)||3.56 (2nd)|
|Goals Against Per Game||3.00 (24th)||2.61 (17th)|
|Power Play Percentage||20.0% (T-10th)||22.2% (T-4th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||78.4% (25th)||74.5% (29th)|
They may have been shorthanded against the Blues, but the Desert Dogs uncorked a vintage Dave Tippett game for the occasion. Without roster mainstays Radim Vrbata, Martin Hanzal, and Derek Morris in the lineup, rock solid goaltending by Mike Smith and timely goals from David Moss, Mikkel Boedker, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson gave the Coyotes two points.
Recent trends also suggest that the Coyotes are returning to normal as far as offensive and defensive measures go. In their last four victories, the Coyotes have only conceded nine goals. Thankfully for Coyotes fans, the power play remains stubbornly good, something Phoenix would love to demonstrate to Chicago's relatively anemic penalty kill.
In case you missed it, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last season, and for good reason. Once again their offense at even strength and on the power play is first rate. The Blackhawks are 7-1-2 in their past ten games and are making a strong case for a repeat season.
Chicago's strong start was in some ways overshadowed by the hot start of their new Central Division companions, the Colorado Avalanche. But they're ready to play. And given they haven't played since Sunday, Chicago has had plenty of time to get ready for Phoenix.
For the Chicago perspective on tonight's game, check out Second City Hockey.
Keys to the Game
- No Penalties - Chicago is absolutely loaded with offensive talent. There's no need to give them extra room on the ice by taking a player off of it.
- Depth Scoring - The Coyotes got a goal from David Moss on Tuesday night. Players like Kyle Chipchura, Jeff Halpern, and Lauri Korpikoski also need to chip in on offense.
- Shot Quality - Mike Smith is probably going to get a heck of a workout tonight. But he can beat Chicago is he has easy looks at the puck and if the Hawks shoot from low percentage areas. Forcing the offense outside and not letting players get in behind the defense is going to be critical to getting two points.
Players to Watch
#89 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes
Dec 16, 1989
|2013 - Mikkel Boedker||4||8||12||-1||12|
Mikkel Boedker recorded a goal on Tuesday, and has started to factor in a little bit more to the Coyotes offense. He is one of the guys who could complement Radim Vrbata as a goal scorer if he gets more aggressive in attacking the net.
#10 / Left Wing / Chicago Blackhawks
Dec 27, 1981
|2013 - Patrick Sharp||4||12||16||7||6|
On pretty much any other team in the league, Patrick Sharp would be the best player. On the Blackhawks, he's not even the best Patrick. But with a goal and six assists in the last three games, he's on a heck of a roll.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2013 - Mike Smith||17||982||11||3||46||2.81||555||509||.917||0|
Given how successful the Hawks have been this season, and given Smitty's prior history against them, it would be surprising for Dave Tippett to not go with his #1.
#50 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks
Dec 31, 1984
|2013 - Corey Crawford||16||948||11||2||35||2.22||423||388||.917||0|
Steve Yzerman has to be licking his chops at the possibility of either of tonight's goaltenders playing for Team Canada in Sochi next year. Corey Crawford is making a pretty strong case to make the roster.
For the Coyotes, Radim Vrbata (lower body) and Martin Hanzal (illness) are both questionable for tonight's game after missing Tuesday night's game against the Blues. Derek Morris (lower body) is technically on injured reserve, but could be activated for tonight's game.
UPDATE: Per the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Morris out. Hanzal and Vrbata in.</p>— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) <a href="https://twitter.com/azc_mclellan/statuses/401053212402126848">November 14, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
The Blackhawks have a few injuries on their back end. Michal Handzus (hand) is likely out for a while, and defenseman Michael Kostka (lower body) remains on long-term IR. Center Brad Mills (lower body) and former Coyote Michal Rozsival (teeth) are both listed as questionable for tonight.
Tonight's game will begin at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen to the game on KMVP 860 AM.