After a successful four-game road trip where the Coyotes earned five of a possible eight points, the boys in Sedona Red return to Glendale looking to re-establish their home ice advantage against a struggling eastern conference foe.
Teams at a Glance
New York Islanders
|Points||39 points (5th in Pacific)||23 points (8th in Metropolitan)|
|Goals For||3.10 (5th)
|Goals Against||3.07 (25th)
|Power Play %||21.4 (7th)
|Penalty Kill %||76.8 (26th)
The Yotes needed to have success on their recent road trip, both with the game results and the actual play on the ice. They mostly accomplished the goal, earning points in three of four games and playing well in all of them but a lackluster second night of a back-to-back scenario in Calgary.
The most encouraging sign was the stronger defensive play evident in those games. They allowed 2.25 goals per game during the streak and only gave up 28.25 shots per game. Compare that with their season averages of 3.07 goals and 33.7 shots against per game or even their previous five games where they allowed 3.6 goals and 30.2 shots per game, and it's easy to see where there is plenty of optimism to take from this team's play on that trip.
Another positive to take from the trip is that they got Z back in the lineup, as he played in Colorado for the first time in ten games. Zbynek Michalek played over 17 minutes in his return to the lineup and should be expected to play closer to 20 tonight.
The Coyotes come in to tonight's game looking to begin a new streak of home ice dominance, having lost their last three in Jobing.com Arena. They also have the added motivation of trying to avenge an awful loss in the third game of the season to these same New York Islanders. Well, not really the same Islanders for reasons we will get into shortly. With vengeance on their minds, the Coyotes need to take advantage of this two game stretch against beatable opponents and start their trek back up the western conference standings.
New York Islanders
October 8th has to feel like an eon ago for Islanders' fans and players. They have lost 10 of their last 11 games and only the Buffalo Sabres keep them from having the worst record in the NHL. But the Islanders did get a shootout victory Tuesday night in San Jose and come into Glendale looking to win two games in a row for only the second time all year. Defense has been an issue all year for the Islanders and they rank last in the NHL in goals against per game and their penalty kill hasn't helped either, actually ranking worse than Phoenix's. But for all of their defensive shortcomings, the offense hasn't been much better. While John Tavares has been fantastic this season with 36 points in 32 games, the rest of the team has struggled to produce with only three other players over 20 points and only six total skaters in double digits. Compare that to the Coyotes who have six players with at least 20 points at this moment and 11 with double digits.
Rumors are swirling as to the job security for Jack Capuano behind the bench and this is the final game of a five game western conference road trip for New York. Will they play with confidence after a win or will the team that lost ten straight games return to the forefront.
Keys to the Game
- Special Teams. The Coyotes power play scored the all important first goal against Colorado and finally went a full game without allowing one on the PK. With the Islanders dead last PK in town, the Coyotes need to make their chances count and punish New York for any discipline breakdowns.
- Possession. The Coyotes need to control the flow of the game and keep the Islanders chasing the game. One key to accomplishing this is to control the face-off circle, where the Coyotes rank 5th, winning 52.5% of their draws while the Islanders are 27th, only winning 46.3% of their face-offs.
- Score First. The Coyotes are 13-2-1 when scoring the first goal of a game this season. The Islanders are 3-15-1 when allowing the first goal. This is one of those rare instances where 1 + 1 does in fact equal two.
Players to Watch
#50 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes
Jul 20, 1982
|2013 - Antoine Vermette||7||9||16||5||16|
Vermette has been tearing it up lately, with points in six of the past seven games. On Tuesday night in Colorado, he scored two goals in his 700th career game and has netted three goals in the two games he has worn the "A" with Shane Doan ill. Doan isn't expected in the lineup tonight and Vermette's continued goal scoring prowess would go a long way toward victory.
#26 / Left Wing / New York Islanders
Jan 19, 1984
|2013 - Thomas Vanek||10||11||21||-4||22|
The longtime Sabre thought he was getting out of the basement of the NHL when the Islanders acquired him earlier in the season. Unfortunately, he went from one team going no where, to a team that has taken multiple steps backward since acquiring him. Vanek has done his part though, scoring 12 points in 16 games as an Isle, including goals in two straight games.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2013 - Mike Smith||19||1107||12||3||53||2.87||637||584||.917||0|
Smith didn't start against the Avs due to an illness but skated on the ice at the optional workout yesterday and will play if he feels up to it. Tonight would be a good night for him to start a run of nice play and start to regain some of his 2011/12 form.
#60 / Goalie / New York Islanders
Apr 12, 1990
|2013 - Kevin Poulin||15||864||4||11||44||3.06||424||380||.896||0|
Poulin's numbers in 2013 have been atrocious to this point but he had a fantastic game against the Sharks on Tuesday, enabling the Islanders to get to then win in the shootout. There is a chance that Evgeni Nabokov could return to the Isles' crease tonight as he has joined the team in Phoenix and has recovered from his groin injury. Nabby's numbers haven't been any better, but he has plenty of experience against the Coyotes.
The Coyotes will be without the services of Derek Morris tonight as he is still excused from the team to attend to personal matters. Shane Doan (illness) is expected to miss his third straight game and Lauri Korpikoski skated with the team Wednesday but also isn't expected in the lineup.
The Islanders will be without defensemen Brian Strait and Lubomir Visnovsky, who are both on IR. Evgeni Nabokov has returned to practice after missing the past 11 games to a groin injury and could return to the Islanders lineup this evening.
Tonight's game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. local start time and will be broadcast on FSAZ and on the radio on AZ Sports 620 AM.