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Looney tunes and shootouts

It's duck season again as the wily Coyotes head over to the magic kingdom to finish off a road trip against Anaheim.

Harry How/Getty Images

Back to back games are never easy. Playing late at night to travel for an early evening start is even harder. The Arizona Coyotes will have to overcome those exact odds to finish a short three game road trip with a winning record against the Western Conference leading Anaheim Ducks.

Matchup At a Glance

Arizona Coyotes (9-10-2) Anaheim Ducks (12-4-5)
Points (Standing) 20 (6th Pacific) 29 (1st Pacific)
Goals per game 2.43 (24th) 2.62 (17th)
Goals against per game 3.05 (24th) 2.38 (10th)
Power play percentage 20.5 (10th) 19.7 (14th)
Penalty kill percentage 78.6 (20th) 83.1 (11th)
Fenwick 5v5 close percentage 47.0 (26th) 51.3 (12th)
PDO 99.1 (23rd) 99.5 (21st)

View from Arizona

The Coyotes recovered from a disastrous third period against Dallas to start their current road trip by getting a big win last night. Playing in San Jose against the struggling Sharks, the Coyotes jumped out to an early lead (again) before allowing the opponent to tie the game (again). Even though San Jose outshot the Coyotes badly, Arizona held fast and got things to the shootout against their Northern California foes (again) where Antoine Vermette scored the game winning skillshot (again, notice a theme?) A win against the leaders of the Pacific division would be an excellent way to finish a three game road swing that started with a thud.

Devan Dubnyk stopped 40 of 43 shots and all three shootout attempts he faced against the Sharks, and while many have called for him to get more action, Mike Smith will probably man the pipes in Anaheim with the early Sunday start on a back to back. Smith was good against the Ducks, stopping 37 of 39 shots faced, in the teams only previous meeting this season on the pond, a 3-2 shootout win for Arizona.

The goaltending is getting back on track and even better for the Yotes, the offense might be coming around as some of their key contributors are starting to fill the stat sheet. Sam Gagner has points in four of the last five games and five assists total in that span. Tobias Rieder continues to impress on both ends of the ice and has chipped in an assist in three of the last five games. After going cold following his hat trick, Mikkel Boedker is also picking up the scoring pace again. He had two assists in San Jose, and has two goals and six points in the past seven contests for Arizona.

View from Anaheim

The Ducks enter play tonight still atop the conference and the division, but they have taken the long way to get there. They only have two wins in the six games played since last facing the desert dogs. Of those four losses, all but one came in overtime or the shootout. In fact, the Ducks have only two regulation finishes in their previous ten games, sporting an odd 4-1-5 record in that time. Hooray for the loser point if you're a Duck fan.

Frederik Andersen has been logging the majority of the play between the pipes with John Gibson hurt. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues tonight or if Anaheim gives him a rest to start former Coyote Jason LaBarbera. Barb's numbers aren't good, a 3.11 gaa and a sub .900 sv% are less than stellar in a small sample size, but he is 2-0-1 in his relief role.

The Ducks continue to be led by the dynamic duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Perry leads the team with 11 goals and Getzlaf's 19 points pace the club. Big offseason acquisition Ryan Kesler has fit in nicely with six goals and nine assists, although his -3 rating is a bit surprising. Coyote killer Andrew Cogliano has struggled to start the year, but with two goals in the past three games, might be primed for another breakout game against his favorite opponent.

Keys to the Game

  • Special Teams. The Coyotes power play has struck in five of the past six games. Unfortunately, they have also allowed a shorthanded goal in two of the last seven games, including a huge momentum shifting one against the Sharks last night. One of those trends needs to continue and the other needs to end tonight.
  • Stamina. It's the second game of a back to back after a late night overtime game. It's the last game of a roadtrip. The Coyotes need to be prepared to tap into the extra reserves to make it through the game, especially if it goes to another extra five minutes.
  • Luck. Let's face it, this game is going to the shootout. The Ducks practically live in the shootout this year, both teams are struggling to score and five of the last 10 games between them have gone to extra time. Time for a super skills exhibition.

Who's Hot

The Coyotes are led into action tonight by Shane Doan. After another slow start, the Captain is heating up. He had a goal and an assist against San Jose, and now has three goals and five points in the last six games.

Sami Vatanen may not be a household name, but he soon could be. He's third in the NHL for points by a defenseman with 17, he has 12 points on the power play and is third on the team in average time on ice. The 2009 fourth round pick has a goal and three assists in Anaheim's previous two games.

Injury Report

Anaheim might as well be renamed the Duck and Covers with their multitude of injuries. John Gibson (groin) has already been mentioned, but they are also missing five other players: Dany Heatley (groin), Mark Fistric (upper body), Ben Lovejoy (broken finger), Kyle Palmieri (ankle), and Sheldon Souray (wrist) is out for the season.

The Coyotes injury report is smaller but with some significant names. Dave Moss has started skating with the team, but no timetable has been set for a return. Brandon Gormley is on the injured reserve with a lower body injury and Martin Hanzal is questionable for tonight with a lower body injury as well.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game will start at 6pm Arizona time. It will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on the radio waves on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.