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Arizona Coyotes look to turn the page against Calgary

The Arizona Coyotes will try to shake off a blown 3-0 lead in their last game when the play the Calgary Flames tonight.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Losing is not fun. Losing when you should have won is even less fun.

The Arizona Coyotes blew a 3-0 lead against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night, and as punishment had to stew on it for the past four days. Tonight against the Calgary Flames, the Coyotes will get a chance to prove they know how to play with a lead.

Matchup at a Glance

Calgary Flames Arizona Coyotes
Points 30 (3rd Pacific) 21 (6th Pacific)
Goals Per Game 3.00 (T-5th) 2.39 (24th)
Goals Against Per Game 2.62 (17th) 3.04 (25th)
Power Play Percentage 20.7% (11th) 19.5 (T-14th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 74.6% (27th) 79.7% (20th)
5v5 Fenwick Close Percentage 45.91% (25th) 45.36% (28th)
PDO 102.22 (3rd) 98.51 (25th)

View from Calgary

At this point in the season, the Calgary Flames probably earn the award for surprise team in the NHL, sitting 3rd in the Pacific Division with 30 points. Lest Coyotes fans feel bad that their most prolific scorers are defensemen, the Flames are led in points by Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, who are first and third on the team respectively. Forward Jiri Hudler has cracked the 10 goal mark very early in the season, which has given the Flames a boost. Combined with an upgrade in net thanks to Jonas Hiller, the Flames are off to a great start.

Whether or not that start is sustainable is an open question. All three of the Flames' leading scorers have shooting percentages well over their career averages (especially Hudler, whose shooting percentage is double that of his career average). A little regression in that sense seems to be in order. Additionally, the team is not particularly good in generating shot attempts when the score is close; this suggests that when the game is at its most competitive and both teams are trying as hard as they can to put the puck in the net, the Calgary Flames are not very good at controlling possession.

View from Arizona

Speaking of teams with abnormal shooting percentages, the Coyotes. Two cogs in the Coyotes' machine that are underperforming this season are Sam Gagner (SH% at 3.7%) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (SH% at 4.1%). The obvious problem with that is both of these players were expected to be difference makers this season, and have been for the wrong reasons.

OEL's play is particularly worrisome. It appears that the Swedish defenseman is attempting to play a much more physical style of game this season, which seems to be a departure from what made the Swede so dangerous earlier on in his career. The finesse Ekman-Larsson may not have been as physical as some would like, but he was quite adept at making plays happen in the offensive zone.

So the marquee defensive matchup of this game will likely not be OEL vs. Giordano. Instead, OEL's place will likely be taken by Keith Yandle, who in addition to putting up points at a healthy clip is enjoying a much more fundamentally sound season than in years past. Yandle's play this season appears to be a rebuttal to those who wanted to pass the franchise defensemen torch off to Ekman-Larsson a couple of seasons ago.

Keys to the Game

  • Avoid Score Effects like the plague - Basically, score effects are what happens when a team with the lead settles into a more defensive shell, inflating the opposing team's shot totals significantly. The problem for the Coyotes is that they lack the upfront talent to swing a game back around should the other team press the advantage. If the Coyotes are fortunate enough to get a multi-goal lead, they must be more aggressive.
  • Find Success Down Low - The Coyotes power play is middling this season, and a big reason for that is its predictability. Arizona hasn't scored a power play goal at home since October 25. If a team knows the offense will be running through the point, there's less of a need to cover down low. The Coyotes need players like Sam Gagner and Mikkel Boedker to post offensive threats from deep within the zone.
  • Find Your Legs Early - Both teams have had a significant amount of time off for Thanksgiving. Long periods of rest don't typically favor the Coyotes though. Start strong and don't allow the Flames to bury the Coyotes early.

Who's Hot

Jiri Hudler has four goals in the team's last three games. Johnny Gaudreau has three assists in the same stretch.

Antoine Vermette is tied with Keith Yandle for the team lead in scoring, and is one back of Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker for the team lead in goals after Vermette's two point performance on Tuesday.

Injury Report

First round draft pick Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery) is out until February. Joining him on injured reserve are Mason Raymond (shoulder), Matt Stajan (knee), Joe Colbrone (concussion), and Mikael Backlund (abdominal). Deryk Engelland (illness) is listed as questionable for tonight.

Both Brandon Gormley (undisclosed) and David Moss (upper body) remain on injured reserve, which makes it possible that Brendan Shinnimin draws in on offense for the Coyotes.

Puck Drop

Late start time tonight for the Coyotes in order to accommodate the CBC up in Canada. Tonight's game begins at 8 PM Arizona time, and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and heard on 620 AM.