Mike Smith's first two starts in his comeback with the Arizona Coyotes have given Arizona an unexpected embarrassment of riches in the goaltending position.
After a strong yet disappointing showing from Louis Domingue last night, the Coyotes will likely turn to Smith for tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center in San Jose.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||San Jose Sharks|
|Points||69 (4th Pacific)||86 (3rd Pacific)|
|Goals For||2.63 (T-16th)||2.93 (3rd)|
|Goals Against||3.00 (28th)||2.56 (T-12th)|
|Power Play||18.7% (15th)||22.2% (T-4th)|
|Penalty Kill||78.9% (24th)||79.4% (23rd)|
|5v5 Corsi For||47.3% (28th)||51.2% (13th)|
|PDO||100.4 (T-11th)||100.3 (T-13th)|
View from Arizona
Arizona's 0 for 6 performance on the power play last night underscored the importance of getting Oliver Ekman-Larsson back into the lineup as soon as possible. Zbynek Michalek is a decent defenseman in his own right, but he is not the one that should be on the point with the goalie pulled in a one-goal game.
In the last meeting between these two teams, the Coyotes were locked in an intense battle up until the last minutes of the game, when Shane Doan scored a fluky goal to carry Arizona over the hump. They will need some good puck luck again after it eluded them in their 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night.
View from San Jose
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Surprisingly, San Jose is also playing on no rest. Unfortunately for Arizona, their Saturday game was at home against the New York Rangers, whom they dispatched with ease in a 4-1 victory.
Los Angeles is seven points ahead of the Sharks for the division lead with 11 games to play, which means a division title is probably out of the question. But San Jose is just one point behind the Anaheim Ducks for second in the division. Given Anaheim will likely be their first round opponent, the battle for home-ice could prove crucial for avoiding yet another early playoff exit.
Keys to the Game
1. Inventive Power Play - Without Ekman-Larsson, Arizona's power play has been utterly ineffective. The Coyotes need more creativity from their forwards down low to give the power play a different look.
2. No PIMs in the First Period - Early penalties are making it very hard for Arizona to get their best forwards in the game early. If they can avoid taking any penalties in the opening frame, the Coyotes can keep guys like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair on the ice and not on the bench.
3. Don't Let Mike Smith Get Hit - In both of Mike Smith's starts, he's taken a couple of good licks from opposing forwards. Don't allow San Jose's big guys too far into the crease.
Players to Watch
Keep an eye out for Brad Richardson and Jordan Martinook. The two haven't connected for a point in three games, but have been one of the better tandems up front for Arizona all year.
Can someone really be an unsung 30-30 player? Joe Pavelski has 33 goals and 35 assists in 71 games this year. He is just two points away from his third consecutive 70+ point season.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is with the team and may play in San Jose. Anders Lindback and Joe Vitale remain out for the season.
Matt Tennyson is out indefinitely with concussion symptoms. Both Matt Nieto and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were injured in San Jose's game against Arizona on Thursday; while Vlasic's injury does not appear to be long-term, Nieto may be done for the remainder of the season.
Tonight's game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona, or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.