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Calgary Flames @ Arizona Coyotes preview: Light at the end of the tunnel

Arizona Coyotes end six-game homestand against playoff hopeful Calgary Flames

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The end of the season is still 40 games away, but that will not stop the Arizona Coyotes from looking ahead to the end of a disappointing and disheartening year.

The cogs started to turn Wednesday afternoon, when the team surprisingly dealt backup goaltender Devan Dubnyk away to the troubled Minnesota Wild. More pieces are sure to move with an eye on the future, but that's another story for another day.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes season resumes tonight when the Coyotes host the Calgary Flames to cap of a season-long six-game homestand. The team will not play in Glendale again until early February, after the Super Bowl.

Matchup at a Glance

Calgary Flames Arizona Coyotes
Points 47 (5th Pacific) 36 (6th Pacific)
Goals For 2.79 (12th) 2.29 (26th)
Goals Against 2.63 (T-15th) 3.26 (27th)
Power Play 17.8% (19th) 21.3% (7th)
Penalty Kill 76.2% (27th) 74.5% (29th)
5v5 Corsi For 44.1% (28th) 48.9% (T-22nd)
PDO 100.8 (T-10th) 97.5 (28th)

View from Calgary

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Calgary comes into the game on the heels of a tight 1-0 win on the road over the Vancouver Canucks. In the shutout against Vancouver, the Flames got a superb effort in net from recent call-up Joni Ortio, who stopped all 36 shots he faced. The game's lone goal came from Flames forward Mikael Backlund, scoring off the rush on the first shot of the game just 5:38 into the contest.

But Calgary has has four days of rest since that game with only the occasional skate and workout to fill the time, so there could be rust especially with travel included in the long layoff. And fighting for a playoff spot with just under half of the season to go, the Flames will need to find their legs fast on the road.

The Flames find themselves two points out of the final Wild Card spot, behind the team they just shutout over the weekend and playing the Coyotes, it's a quality chance to gain some ground in the race.

View from Arizona

The Coyotes method of operation for most of the past few weeks has been feast or famine - either get blown out or or run away with the game. That stretch ended with their most recent game, a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.

Entering Thursday night's tilt, Arizona has gone 5-5-0 in their last 10 and are a mediocre 9-11-3 on home ice, a number that will not get even within a sniff of the postseason. However, they have have played better, if not more consistently on home ice to the naked eye and are at least showing signs of life.

Speculation will continue to run rampant around the arena and through the doldrums of the season, but a good showing against Calgary could bring up the value of some of the more talked about pieces and also continue help some of the younger players on the roster solidify their roles and cement a spot next season.

Keys to the Game

  • Win the physical game - With Calgary looking to get their legs under them quickly, Arizona will need to hit them hard and hit them early. Getting into the corners and winning the hard-working possession game will keep the puck off the sticks of the Flames' playmakers and hopefully lead to some rushes down the ice for Arizona.
  • D-FENCE! - Yes, the Coyotes can score but blocking shots and playing the body will be big against a speedy, talented Flames offense. Clearing the zone safely by using the boards and finding the safe outlet will help to temper the offense. You do not want to get into an up-and-down game against Calgary.
  • Score first - As mentioned before, getting off to a fast start is huge and potting a goal first can do wonders to both help Arizona's confidence and also force Calgary to chase the game and maybe take some ill-advised chances. This isn't exactly an Earth-shattering strategy though.

En Fuego

Arizona's Mikkel Boedker has four goals in his last three games, including a slick one against the Sharks. He's now the team's leading goal-scorer with 13 tallies on the year, and is one behind Antoine Vermette for the team lead in points.

TJ Brodie had two goals in Friday's back-and-forth affair with the Florida Panthers but it is Johnny Gaudreau who may have the hottest story this week.

Ouch Town

Shane Doan suffered a pretty decent bone bruise blocking a shot on Tuesday and is doubtful for this one, according to coach Dave Tippett. Defenseman Brandon Gormley is day-to-day but Martin Hanzal will be back in the line-up and Zbynek Michalek should also be good to go again.

Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery) and Josh Jooris (wrist) remain on injured reserve. Karri Ramo will be out for Calgary again with a head injury.

Puck Drop

It is a typical 7 p.m. start for this one at Gila River Arena in Glendale. The game can be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona and also heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM or 620 AM. Also, for those with the need, the contest can be viewed on SportsNet West in Canada.