The Phoenix Coyotes come into Saturday's afternoon affair in Columbus in need of a win. They are sitting precariously in ninth place in the Western Conference as the day begins. Luckily, the Coyotes have had success against today's opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Desert Dogs have won both games in the series this season. However, both wins were in the comfy confines of Jobing.com Arena where they hold an overall record of 10-5-1. The road hasn't been as kind to Phoenix's hockey squad. The Dogs have a road record of 3-6-2 which, as many media members have noted this week, is especially concerning due to the majority of the team's remaining games being on the road.
Since the last time the two teams met on February 16 things have changed for Columbus in a big way. They've made a habit of winning one goal hockey games, are 5-0-4 in their last nine contests, and sit just 4 points out of eighth place in the West. Part of the Jackets resurgence has been due to the stellar play of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The other big part is the play of their penalty killers. The Blue Jackets are 7-4-5 at home this season. This is the final time the two teams will meet during the 2012-2013 regular season.
Five for Winning
1. Special teams. Neither team is a especially potent power play and both have excellent penalty killing units. Columbus currently ranks 1st in the NHL on the penalty kill at home (92.2%). If the Coyotes can find a way to draw penalties and grab a goal with the man advantage it would be a big step
2. Confidence in the O Zone. The Dogs continued their run of poor play against trapping squads against the Blues. They can't let Thursday's game and their inability to get things going in the offensive zone carry over to today's game.
3. Get Marty on track. Martin Hanzal has not scored a goal since he returned from injury on March 4. His faceoff numbers in four of the six games since he returned to the lineup have been below 40%. Frequent linemate Steve Sullivan loves playing Columbus which bodes well for Hanzal.
4. Energy. The Coyotes all too often have looked flat on the road this season. They can't afford to come out flat against a team on a roll like CBus.
5. Screens. Bob is going to stop what he can see. Guys like Martin Hanzal, Davis Moss, Raffi Torres, and Shane Doan need to park themselves in front of the Russian's crease.
Players to Watch
#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes
Jul 17, 1991
|2012 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson||27||3||14||17||8||14||0||0||1||57|
Fresh off signing a new contract it will be interesting to see how the young Swede plays. He had the game winning goal against the Blue Jackets in their first meeting this season.
#7 / Defenseman / Columbus Blue Jackets
Jan 13, 1987
|2012 - Jack Johnson||24||4||8||12||-9||6||3||0||0||54|
The former L.A. King blueliner is well know to the Phoenix and their fans. He's a high risk, high reward player who the Coyotes can exploit in the offensive zone and should fear in the defensive zone.
Likely Starting Goaltenders
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2012 - Mike Smith||22||1253||11||8||61||2.92||605||544||.899||3|
Smith needs to make a stand on this road trip. While his teammates continue to leave him high and dry at times, he's also not making big saves consistently like he did last season.
#72 / Goalie / Columbus Blue Jackets
Sep 20, 1988
|2012 - Sergei Bobrovsky||19||1108||8||6||39||2.11||532||493||.927||1|
Phoenix faced Steve Mason in both matchups in Glendale earlier this season. Don't expect Bob to be giving up 5 goals today like the Jackets did in each of those two prior contests. He's 6-1-3 in his last 10 games. His save percentage during this recent stretch is a whopping .950.
Zybynek Michalek (lower body) - Questionable
Radim Vrbata (foot) - Questionable
Derek Dorsett (clavicle) - Out
Derek McKenzie (upper body) - Questionable
Nikita Nikitin (lower body) - Probable
James Wisniewski (foot) - Out