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Traveling North and Going South

Two teams mired in slumps meet tonight when the Arizona Coyotes play the Vancouver Canucks in British Columbia.

This image stings. Not gonna lie.
This image stings. Not gonna lie.
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Forgot Hollywood. The Coyotes need to move on from a rough final twenty minutes in La-La Land and refocus on playing solid hockey. Thankfully, their next opponent is going through a rough patch as well. The Canucks have lost five of their last six contests and will be wrapping up a short homestand before the holiday break.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes Vancouver Canucks
Points 26 (6th Pacific) 40 (3rd Pacific)
Goals per game 2.25 (25th) 2.81 (11th)
Goals against per game 2.19 (28th) 2.78 (22nd)
Power play % 19.8 (11th) 17.6 (18th)
Penalty kill % 75.2 (29th) 86.8 (3rd)
Corsi for % 48.8 (23rd) 50.6 (15th)
PDO 97.7 (tie 28th) 97.7 (tie 28th)

The View From Arizona

The Coyotes finally won a home game last week but couldn't continue the momentum in the next game against the Kings. Up 2-1 with a little over a period left, the Arizona penalty kill would fail them yet again, allowing a late goal at the end of the second and the game winner early in the third.

The Desert Dogs have been playing better as of late, but the penalty kill has become a major issue. Shorthanded 31 times in the last nine games, the Yotes have allowed 11 goals in that situation (64.5%). That has to change or the Coyotes won't be able to get out of the tailspin they find themselves in, no matter how much better they start playing in other situations.

Devan Dubnyk was okay against the Kings, stopping 31 of 35 shots faced. He has started four of the last five games and got the win against the Oilers, ending the Coyotes home losing streak before it reached double digits. His numbers have been solid but unspectacular in that time, stopping 114 of 126 shots faced for a .905 save percentage with a 3.23 goals against average. Coming off the loss, Mike Smith likely will be back between the pipes for Arizona.

The View From Vancouver

The Canucks had lost five in a row before righting the ship slightly in their last game, a 3-2 overtime win against the suddenly floundering Calgary Flames. Now seems like a perfect time for the 'Nucks to face Arizona, but they have some issues to deal with themselves.

They gave up 19 goals during the five game losing streak and only scored seven goals in that span. The goaltending has been shaky in December, with a .893 SV% and a 2.99 GAA. Another issue for Vancouver has been secondary scoring. While the top unit of the Sedin twins and former Coyote Radim Vrbata has produced well for them, the rest of the roster has been hit or miss at best, with Nick Bonino leading the way of that group with 20 points. If you can contain the top line, you have an excellent chance of beating the Canucks and that could be a hindrance for the team down the road.

Ryan Miller will likely be in net for the Canucks this evening, coming off a solid effort against Calgary, stopping 26 of 28 shots in the victory. He did give up five goals in the last meeting in the Pacific Northwest between these teams, including three to Martin Hanzal.

Keys to the Game

  • Special teams. The Coyotes need to do better with the man advantage and stopping the puck with a man in the box (good song). Vancouver has a middle of the road power play right now, but their pk has been outstanding to start the year. The Nucks should have an advantage, so the Coyotes need to be sharp.
  • Goaltending. Both teams have had shaky netminding in December. Miller started the year strong for Vancouver but has been a mess recently (save the Calgary game), allowing three or more goals in four of his past six starts. The less said about Coyote goaltending this month the better. Overall, both teams rank in the bottom of the league, Vancouver tied for 25th with a .902 sv% and the Yotes tied for 27th with a .899.
  • Reuse, recycle. The Yotes already have a victory in Vancouver this year, the 5-0 whitewash on November 14th. Marty Hanzal's hat trick. It's rerun time for television and repeat of that game would be welcome.

Who's Hot

Kyle Chipchura has played well over the past three games for the Coyotes, scoring a goal, adding an assist and taking four shots on goal. He's gotten a little over 13 minutes a game in that span and has provided a spark to a forward group that has been less than stellar. Hopefully he can bring that energy for another game.

Vancouver got a big goal from Chris Tanev to break the losing streak in OT. Tanev has both of his goal in the last six games for Vancouver and is playing more than 22 minutes a game in that stretch.

Injury Report

Michael Stone and Lauri Korpikoski both missed the last game against the Kings and are listed as questionable for tonight. The Korpedo did skate with the team yesterday. There is some good news on the injury front for Arizona, as Brandon Gormley was recalled from his conditioning assignment to Portland and is expected to play this evening.

Vancouver will be without Zach Kassian (finger) and Dan Hamhuis (lower body) who are both on the IR. Jannik Hansen left the Calgary game early after collapsing on the bench, but is expected to suit up against the Coyotes.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game will get underway at 8pm Arizona time. You can watch on Fox Sports Arizona and listen on 98.7 AZ Sports FM.