The Arizona Coyotes return home this evening for a brief one game home stand before heading back on the road. Their opponent will be the Washington Capitals. The two teams are currently heading is opposite directions. While the Yotes have won two games in a row, the Caps have lost their last two.
The last three meetings between the clubs have all been tight affairs decided by one goal, including the Coyotes overtime win over the Caps just over two weeks ago at Verizon Center. Their last meeting in Glendale was just over a year ago. Mirroring the team's meeting in D.C. earlier this month, the Caps squandered a 3-1 lead in route to a loss last year as well.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||Washington Capitals|
|Points||17 (6th Pacific)||17 (5th Metro)|
|Goals Per Game||2.56 (21st)||2.88 (T-7th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||3.11 (25th)||2.76 (17th)|
|Power Play Percentage||20% (11th)||25.9% (3rd)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||77% (25th)||80.7% (15th)|
|5v5 Fenwick Close For %||45.97% (25th)||53.01% (8th)|
View from Washington
Washington hasn't had the struggles Arizona has with puck possession. The team's new head coach Barry Trotz has the team creating more shots on goal all while suppressing more shots from the opposition. Their problem in their last two contests was not being able to get the puck past opposing netminders. The Caps were blanked by Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils on Friday at home and followed the performance up with a 4-1 road loss in St. Louis the next night.
View from Arizona
Arizona comes into the game riding a two game winning streak courtesy of stronger defensive play and excellent netminding from backup goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The Yotes put on their best defensive performances of the season in front of the former Oilers' starter blocking 48 shots in the two victories. Of course, those blocks were needed in part due to Arizona's struggle to maintain puck possession consistently. However, due to the team's lack of high end skill and young blueline corps continuing to focus on defense in the neutral and defensive zones may be Coach Dave Tippett's best strategy for success.
Keys to the Game
- Stick Like Glue - The Desert Dogs need to continue to do what they started this past weekend in terms of gap control, positioning, and stick work. They cannot allow players like all-stars like Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, young speedsters like Andre Burakowsky or Evgeni Kuznetsov, or old guys with wheels in the case of Jason Chimera, time or space in transition and certainly not their own zone.
- Speed Kills - Speaking of the issue os speed, the Caps spent the offseason shoring up their defensive depth. However, they still lack a shutdown pairing. Don't be surprised if Dave Tippett tries to match lines in order to get a player like Mikkel Boedker against the Orpik/Carlson pairing. Orpik isn't getting any faster as he ages and Carlson is having a relatively poor season. On the subject of fast skaters, this might be the perfect game for Lucas Lessio to make his 2014-15 season debut.
- Discipline - The Caps have a lethal power play. Therefore the Yotes need to limit the amount of opportunities Ovechkin and his merry band receive. The good news is D.C. hockey club is doing a poor job of getting the man advantage. They rank only 24th in the NHL in power play opportunities.
The hottest Coyote of late has been Dubnyk. He stopped 68 of the 69 shots he faced this past weekend. Of course, whether or not he even plays tonight is question mark, especially given his poor performance against Washington earlier this month. The other player who has been heating up of late is the captain. Shane Doan has five goals and two assists in his last eight games including two goals against the Caps on November 2nd.
Remember last season when Joel Ward scored a career high 24 goals? Everyone figured it was a one year fluke. Maybe not. The late blooming former Predator has showed no signs of slowing down under his former/current coach. He has eight goals 17 games into the current NHL campaign. Another player with eight goals for The District's hockey club is Marcus Johansson. The young Swede is having the best start of his career, in part due to playing a much more aggressive style than in previous seasons.
The Caps are missing a several players who would normally be in their starting lineup. Brooks Laich (shoulder) and Dmitry Orlov (wrist) are both on IR. Orlov has yet to play this season after having offseason surgery. Additionally, Washington is without their tough guy brigade. Forward Aaron Volpatti and defensemen John Erskine have both been out of the lineup due to neck surgeries and forward Liam O'Brien (lower body) has missed the Caps' last two games. O'Brien's injury opened up a roster spot for former Coyote Chris Brown.
For Arizona, David Moss (upper body) is still on IR, but has been skating. Brandon Gormley and Rob Klinkhammer (upper body) were both injured in Sunday's game against the Oilers. Gormley has been placed on IR and Klinkhammer is listed as day to day. Gormley's injury has resulted in David Schlemko being recalled just a few days after he cleared waivers and was sent down to Portland.
Tonight's game begins at 7:00 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona, or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.