The Phoenix Coyotes are suddenly playing some of their best hockey this season on the heels of an abysmal winless streak that propelled the team to the bottom of the Western Conference. Though the gap ahead of them remains wide (as of this writing Phoenix is four points out of 8th place with Edmonton and Columbus above them), the Coyotes can continue to gain ground by picking up wins.
On the surface, the Colorado Avalanche appear to be meeting the Coyotes at the perfect time. For Phoenix. Colorado is now dead last in the NHL with 29 points and have gone 2-7-1 in their previous ten. Additionally, they played last night in Colorado against the Detroit Red Wings, losing 3-2 in overtime. Despite impressive seasons by PA Parenteau and Matt Duchene, Colorado appears to be positioning itself well for the NHL Draft Lottery.
These two teams tend to play interesting hockey when they meet. In their last matchup, the Coyotes won in OT thanks to a fortuitous bounce off a referee's skate, which helped Shane Doan net the game winner. Hopefully the bounces will continue to go the Coyotes' way tonight.
Five For Winning
1. Next Man Up - The Coyotes got big contributions from AHL call-ups Chris Conner and Chris Brown during the game against Detroit. Thanks to the flu bug, the Coyotes also were forced to bring up David Rundblad and Alexandre Bolduc. If these guys make the lineup, they will need to contribute in some way during the game.
2. Kill Off Some Penalties - Both of Detroit's goals Thursday night came while the Coyotes were shorthanded, and the PK is currently only 82.7% effective this year. Colorado's power play is statistically as bad as Phoenix's is; tonight would be a good night to have a clean sheet on the PK.
3. Pass - One of the major things I noticed in Thursday's game was that the Coyotes were making good passes; the Conner goal and the Doan goal were entirely due to excellent passes from Mikkel Boedker and Keith Yandle, respectively. Crisp, accurate passing will do wonders for the Coyotes' offense.
4. Shoot - I know that I said passing was important, but so is shooting. The Coyotes are at their best when they're giving goaltenders fits with shot after shot after shot. Phoenix managed to outshoot Detroit: they should try and do that again.
5. Nothing Less Than Absolute Victory: Colorado is the worst team in the league. The Coyotes need to prove that tonight and walk away with two points. This is a game they should win.
Players to Watch
#15 / Left Wing / Colorado Avalanche
Mar 24, 1983
|2012 - P.A. Parenteau||14||22||36||-7||32|
There were a lot of Coyotes' fans (myself included) who thought that Parenteau would've made a nice offseason acquisition for the Coyotes way back before the lockout. He's certainly producing for the Avs; he leads the team in points and has evolved into a solid Top 6 forward.
#36 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes
Aug 12, 1986
|2012 - Rob Klinkhammer||4||4||8||5||8|
More often than not, when something good has happened on the ice for the Coyotes, Rob Klinkhammer has been a part of it. Klinkhammer has gone from being an AHL asset to a legitimate part of the Coyotes offense. If he continues to play as well as he has this year, he may start to figure more prominently into the Coyotes' long term plans.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
#1 / Goalie / Colorado Avalanche
Apr 27, 1988
|2012 - Semyon Varlamov||30||1707||10||17||85||2.99||883||798||.904||3|
With J.S. Giguere playing last night in Colorado, Varlamov is likely to be the starter tonight. The former Capital has not had a great year, in part due to the team that's playing in front of him. His own stats aren't helping his case either.
#1 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Jan 18, 1980
|2012 - Jason LaBarbera||13||606||3||5||25||2.48||331||306||.924||0|
This one is an absolute toss-up. LaBarbera was supposed to play Thursday night, but was benched right before the game due to the flu. It's possible that Chad Johnson starts again if Barbs still isn't feeling better. Of course, Mike Smith is also taking pucks in practice again, so it's conceivable that he starts tonight too.
Colorado has had to deal with a ton of injuries this year. Steve Downie is out for the year with a torn ACL, and Milan Hejduk (shoulder), Paul Statsny (foot), and Ryan Wilson (ankle) are all on IR. Additionally, Chuck Kobasew (back) and David Jones (knee) are questionable for tonight's game.
The Coyotes have had to contend with a sudden bout of flu that forced Jason LaBarbera to the bench and David Schlemko to the locker room during Thursday night's action. Both of their statuses are unknown for tonight. Likewise for starting goaltender Mike Smith, who has been skating in practice but as of this writing remains on IR. Zbynek Michalek (Limbs) and Lauri Korpikoski (Upper Body) are also doubtful for tonight's game.
The game begins at 6 PM tonight at Jobing.com Arena. If you're going to the game, there is another event going on at nearby University of Phoenix Stadium that may increase traffic around the area, so plan accordingly. If you're staying home, you can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or KFNN 1510 AM.