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New Jersey Devils vs Phoenix Coyotes preview - big M v. little M

The Devils come to town for the first time since 2012. But with the them on a hot streak and the Coyotes just getting off a tough stint, will the return of Zbynek Michalek and Mike Smith's rediscovered skill be enough for the Yotes to win?

Christian Petersen

Thursday was a good showing for both the New Jersey Devils and the Phoenix Coyotes. Mike Smith registered his first shutout of the season, hopefully stopping a bad streak, while the Devils lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the shootout and extended their current point streak to six games. For both teams, this is a chance to prove their worth. For New Jersey, it's about showing they truly can hold up against Western Conference teams. For Phoenix, it's just one more chance to prove that the Desert Dogs will not go away.

New Jersey Devils

Phoenix Coyotes


51 (Two points out of Wild Card)

53 (Four points out of Wild Card)

Penalty Kill

86.6% (2nd in NHL)

79.1% (25th in NHL)

Goals Against Per Game

2.29 (4th in NHL)

2.96 (24th in NHL)

Faceoff %

46.1% (29th in NHL)

52.3% (5th in NHL)

New Jersey Devils

The Devils may have had a rough start to the season but they have been red hot in January . Between Cory Schneider and Martin Brodeur the team has only allowed six regulation goals in the last six games and managed to accrue nine points in their last eight games.  Compare that to the Coyotes' recent record and you can see almost diametrically opposed teams. This is the last game of a successful road trip and the Devils will be looking to close it out on a high note. This won't be an easy game for either team, especially with both being so evenly matched.

Phoenix Coyotes

On Thursday, the Yotes proved a return to ‘Coyotes Hockey' is possible, and maybe imminent. It was the first shutout of the season and probably Mike Smith's best game so far. Defensively both teams are on fairly equal footing. Defensively it's a pretty close match with both teams having two defensemen with 20-plus points this season (Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the Yotes and Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky for the Devils). That being said, the Coyotes are going to have to go on the offensive if they want to win, find weaknesses in the Devils' armor and exploit them.

Keys to the Game

  • Capitalize on the Power Play: This one goes both ways. The Devils are ranked second in the league on the penalty kill, putting one past them will be tough. At the same time the Coyotes remain the only team in the NHL without a shorthanded goal this season. Just like the shutout it's about time.
  • Discipline: Last game, the Vancouver Canucks had 13:10 on the power play, that excludes their offsetting penalties. The Devils aren't a powerhouse on the power play but that doesn't matter. Freshly injured players like Zbynek Michalek need time to rest and others like Shane Doan still aren't quite at full strength. Forcing them to be out on the penalty kill will only lead to more problems ranging from tiredness later in the game to more injury. If the Coyotes want to win and get past the slump, keeping six men on the ice will be necessary.
  • Use the Circle: New Jersey has the second worst percentage of faceoff wins in the league. With solid centering from Martin Hanzal, Antoine Vermette, Mike Ribeiro and Jeff Halpern, it will be possible to use that to the Coyotes' advantage and put shots on net. Hopefully a few will go through. But with Brodeur, the best bet is to take the shot and hope for the best.

Players to Watch

Jaromir Jagr

#68 / Right Wing / New Jersey Devils



Feb 15, 1972

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Jaromir Jagr 14 24 38 15 24

He tied for team lead in shots on goal Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche, but what makes him notable is his run with Dallas last season where he had five points in four games against the Coyotes.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes



Jul 17, 1991

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson 6 20 26 6 30

This key D-man is riding a four-game point streak, that's a point a game since he missed a pair of games due to injury.

Probable Starting Goaltenders

Martin Brodeur

#30 / Goalie / New Jersey Devils



May 06, 1972

2013 - Martin Brodeur 26 1568 13 9 61 2.33 644 583 .905 3

After his play against the Avs, he seems to be the most likely starter. Brodeur's record speaks for itself and with him in net, it will be like watching older Smitty take on younger Smitty.

Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes



Mar 22, 1982

2013 - Mike Smith 20 1171 12 3 57 2.92 667 610 .915 0

Though Thursday's shutout was probably overdue for Mike Smith, it was still a great performance. If he shows up like that agai,n the Coyotes will be in a good position to pull out the win.

Injury Report

For the Devils, Damien Brunner remains on injured reserve while Peter Harrold will also miss the game with a foot injury.

What? No Coyotes on this list? A January miracle!

Puck Drop

It's Saturday! Which means pre-game tailgating! But if that's not really your thing the puck will drop at 6 p.m. The game can be seen at Arena, Fox Sports Arizona and possibly even in your head...though that would probably only happen if you are listening to the broadcast on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.