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Arizona Coyotes back on home ice for second of three December meetings with Calgary Flames

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Arizona returns to Gila River Arena in search of two points after an up-and-down road trip.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When the Arizona Coyotes last faced off with the Calgary Flames on December 8th, the Flames were riding a four-game win streak that turned into five after beating the Coyotes 2-1 in overtime at Gila River Arena. Calgary has since cooled off, dropping back-to-back home games versus Tampa Bay and Columbus last week.

Can the Coyotes begin their five-game home stand with two points? Or will Calgary right the ship at the expense of the hometown team?

View From Calgary

For more info on the Calgary Flames check out Matchsticks and Gasoline.

Earlier this month, the Flames sat pretty atop the Pacific Division, tied with Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers. However, a pair of disappointing home losses has them looking to get back on track tonight in Arizona. Netminder Chad Johnson had a tough week in particular, allowing four goals in both of his games and ultimately getting pulled in one of them. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the Coyotes faced Brian Elliot tonight.

While the Flames aren’t quite as hot as they were the last time they visited the desert, it would be foolish for the Coyotes to show up unprepared. Calgary remains one of the best road teams in the league (9-6-2).

View From Arizona

The Coyotes put together a pair of solid winning efforts during a four-game roadie last week, which were unfortunately bookended by a pair of ugly losses. Yet one can’t be too surprised in a season characterized by inconsistency; if the young Coyotes want points to come on a regular basis, they have to focus on putting together solid 60-minute efforts every time they step on the ice.

Three Questions

1. Which Coyotes team will show up tonight? - Will it be the team that won back-to-back road games in hockey Meccas Detroit and Toronto? Or will it be the team that wilted during a 4-1 loss at Minnesota? Or (gulp), perhaps the team that got pummeled in a 7-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last Monday?

2. Will the Flames yet again find their stride? - Last week was humbling for Calgary, so a matchup against the struggling Coyotes could serve as a convenient way to regain some momentum.

3. Will the Captain score #400? - He’s had chances, but Coyotes captain Shane Doan remains in search of his 400th career goal. Perhaps Christmas will come early for the 40-year-old veteran, whose team will happily accept scoring from wherever they can get it.

Players to Watch

Calgary - Chad Johnson/Brian Elliot - Flames coach Glen Gulutzan will face a goaltending decision tonight. Johnson, who has been reliable for most of the season, had a rough pair of outings last week, potentially leaving the door open for Elliot to step in and improve on his 3-9-1 record in 14 appearances this season.

Arizona - Radim Vrbata - On his third professional stint in Arizona, Vrbata is once again doing what he does best: he leads the team with eight goals and points. With Max Domi out of the lineup and Anthony Duclair struggling to find his groove, the veteran Vrbata will be forced to continue to produce to help his team stay in games.

Injury Report

Calgary - The Flames continue to be without defenseman Ladislav Smid who has missed 30 games with a neck injury.

Arizona - Coyotes winger Max Domi is out indefinitely after undergoing successful hand surgery last week. Brad Richardson remains sidelined with a broken leg.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game starts at 7pm in Arizona. You can watch it on Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Go or listen to it on KTAR News Radio 92.3 FM.