Though both teams may currently reside in the basement of the Western Conference, tonight's matchup between the Dallas Stars and the Arizona Coyotes promises to be a clash of styles and a bitter fight to begin climbing back towards playoff contention.
Matchup at a Glance
|Dallas Stars||Arizona Coyotes|
|Points||12 (7th Central)||13 (6th Pacific)|
|Goals Per Game||2.79 (11th)||2.36 (T-25th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||3.50 (29th)||3.29 (26th)|
|Power Play Percentage||17.3% (20th)||20.0% (T-15th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||76.0% (26th)||74.5% (27th)|
|5v5 Fenwick For %||49.3% (19th)||49.0% (21st)|
|PDO||98.2 (23rd)||97.2 (27th)|
View from Dallas
If you were to pick a team that "won" the offseason, there's a good chance Dallas would have been at the top of the list. The Stars won the Jason Spezza trade sweepstakes, and managed to sign Ales Hemsky to add to an already potent offense featuring Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
Unfortunately for the Stars, those moves have not vaulted the team into a position to contend for the playoffs. The back end has proven to be incapable of keeping the puck out of their own net, and despite Kari Lehtonen's best efforts, the team finds itself dead last in the competitive Central Division. The Stars may still yet figure it out and go on a run, but there are a lot of missing points they left on the table so far in October and November.
View from Arizona
Speaking of missing points, the Coyotes offense. Arizona is still struggling mightily to score goals, as expected. Sam Gagner and Mikkel Boedker have both produced somewhat disappointing goal totals thus far, and the secondary scoring is not picking up the slack either.
The good news is defensively the team seems to finally be getting back to Dave Tippett style hockey. The Coyotes have allowed two goals or less in each of their last three games, and Mike Smith has also improved dramatically in that stretch as well. It's too early to tell if Smitty is back to his normal self, but for now the Coyotes will take his much improved play.
Keys to the Game
- Attack! - The Stars have a very potent offense. Their defense? Not so much. Taking it to the defensemen and forcing the Stars' goaltender to make a lot of saves is a great way to keep the offense from taking over this game.
- Defend! - More specifically, keep players like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to the outside as much as possible. The lone goal scored in the Coyotes-Isles game Saturday night came as Frans Nielson was left uncovered in the slot. That's where the Coyotes get into trouble.
- Maintain! - Saturday night's game did not result in a win, but the Coyotes did a lot of good things. They were aggressively taking shots and not looking for the perfect strike. Keep peppering the net and build off of the good things the team did last week.
Tyler Seguin is scary good. In 14 appearances, he has 10 goals and nine assists. He also has 55 shots, which means he's not discriminate about when he puts the puck on net.
Mike Smith's improved play is coming at the right time. In four of his last five games, Smitty has posted a save percentage of .923 or better. In the last three games, Smith has a save percentage of .951, stopping 97 of 102 shots.
Defenseman Patrick Nemeth (arm laceration) is out for the entire 2014-15 season, while Rich Peverley (heart) is yet to return after last year's terrifying incident where he collapsed on the bench from an irregular heartbeat. Valeri Nichushkin (hip) will not play in tonight's game, and Cody Eakin (upper body) is questionable to go tonight.
Arizona's David Moss (upper body) has resumed skating but still does not have a timetable set for return. He remains on injured reserve.
Tonight's game begins at 7 PM at Gila River Arena in Glendale. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on 98.7 FM.