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Phoenix Coyotes vs Winnipeg Jets preview: and we're back

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With the Sochi Olympics the Phoenix Coyotes resume play in the town they started out in against the Winnipeg Jets Version 2.0.

Marianne Helm

Fresh off the Olympic break the Phoenix Coyotes face off against the Winnipeg Jets for the second time this year. The last time these two teams met, the Coyotes ended up dropping the game 5-1 and the Coyotes are looking for revenge against the team that they have yet to beat on the road since they existed.

Matchup at a Glance

Phoenix Coyotes

Winnipeg Jets

Points

64 (9th)

62 (11th)

Goals Per Game

2.74 (14th)

2.72 ( 15th)

Goals Against Per Game

2.84 (21st)

2.83 (20th)

Power Play Percentage

20.4 (8th)

14.4 ( 25th)

Penalty Kill Percentage

80.3 (24th)

84.3 (6th)

Phoenix Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes are going to need to play solid in the final 24 games of the season if they want to make it to the playoffs. The Coyotes are currently tied with Dallas for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference and they know they are going to need to play a lot better and find their consistency if they are going to make it into the postseason.

In the final stretch going into the break, the Coyotes were playing very inconsistently, winning big games against better teams and losing against some of the bottom teams. They won big games against the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins but they lost against the Buffalo Sabres and lost two games against the Dallas Stars.

The Yotes sent five players to Russia for the Olympics, Martin Hanzal, Zbynek Michalek, Lauri Korpikoski, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Mike Smith. The rest of the Coyotes players stayed in shape with a "mini training camp."

Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are also on the outside looking in with regards to the playoffs this year. Since relocating from Atlanta to Winnipeg, they have yet to make it into the postseason and their first year in the Western Conference seems to be more of the same for them. They attempted to turn things around earlier this season when they replaced Claude Noel with Paul Maurice earlier this season and have gone 9-3-1 since the coaching change.

Winnipeg sent four players to the Olympics, Michael Frolik, Ondrej Pavelec, Olli Jokinen, and Blake Wheeler. Frolik and Pavelec were on the Czech team that came up wanting more with Pavelec being the goaltender for all but one game. Olli Jokinen played with Korpi on team Finland going 2-2-4 and Wheeler was part of Team USA, although he only had one assist and wasn't a contributing faster. The rest of the Jets spent the time resting up, including Evander Kane who missed some time before the break with a hand injury who is expected to have fully recovered.

Keys to the Game

Special teams. Despite being very similar in regards to goals against and goals for, the Coyotes and Jets are polar opposites with regards to special teams. The Phoenix power play is solid, however they are weak on the penalty kill, while the Jets are better on the penalty kill but lacking with the power play.

Score first. The team that scores first has a major advantage, they are better able to control the game and the other team has to work harder to come back. The Coyotes have chased way too many games this season and while they have managed to come back a few times, they need to break that dangerous habit.

Play 60 minutes. The problem with the Coyotes this year has been consistency, and if they can find a way to do that and play a full game on a regular basis they should be able to beat almost any team in the NHL.

Players to Watch


Oliver Ekman-Larsson

#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes

6-2

190

Jul 17, 1991



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson 8 21 29 3 36

Ekman-Larsson was expected to be a major part of Team Sweden, especially by Coyotes fans who have seen him grow into one of the best NHL defensemen, but he didn't see a lot of ice time. He was barely on the ice for the final game where Sweden ended up getting silver, and he sat on the bench for the entirety of the game against Finland. It seems likely that he will be good and angry and looking to prove something to everyone and possibly himself.


Blake Wheeler

#26 / Right Wing / Winnipeg Jets

6-5

205

Aug 31, 1986


Wheeler also went to the Olympics however his team didn't have the success that Team Sweden did. He still is one of the top players for the Jets though, he is leading the team in goals with 22 and leading the team in points with 48.

Likely Starting Goaltenders


Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982



GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Mike Smith 49 2834 20 17 131 2.77 1500 1369 .913 2

Smith spent the Olympic break winning a gold medal as the third goaltender for team Canada, even though he didn't actually play. Before the break he was playing very well, and hopefully he can pick right up where he ended before the break.


Ondrej Pavelec

Winnipeg Jets

Born: August 31, 1987


Pavelec isn't the best goaltender in the NHL, he currently has a 2.97 goals against average, and a .901 save percentage. He is coming off four games in the Olympics where finished with a .888 save percentage and 2.87 goals against average.

Injury Report

Derek Morris didn't do a lot of skating in the Coyotes practices toward the end of the Olympics, but it has been suggested that he will be ready to play in tonight's game.

The Jets are likely to be missing Jim Slater, Matt Halischuk, and Grant Clitsome. Evander Kane and Tobias Enstrom are expected to play.

Puck Drop

The game is in Winnipeg tonight and starts at 6 p.m. It will be airing on Fox Sports Arizona as well as AZ Sports 98.7.