NHL: Coyotes @ Jets Preview
The Phoenix Coyotes return to action after the Olympic break by going on the road for back-to-back games. The desert dogs visit Winnipeg Jets tonight and then head to Colorado for a meeting with the Avalanche tomorrow.
Three of the five Coyotes’ Olympians returned back to Phoenix with a medal. Lauri Korpikoski (bronze), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (silver) and Mike Smith (gold). Training sessions during the week have been intense and hopefully the Coyotes can get off to a good start and start building some momentum as only 24 games remain in the regular season.
The Coyotes are currently in the 10th spot in the Western Conference, tied in points (64) with the Dallas Stars, and one point behind the Vancouver Canucks who holds the last wildcard spot. The Yotes are 4-5-1 in the last 10 games and includes wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks. Mike Ribeiro leads the Coyotes in points with 40p (14+26) in 58 games and Antoine Vermette is the leading goalscorer with 21 goals. Goalie Mike Smith is 20-17-9 with a 2.77 GAA and .913 SV%.
The Winnipeg Jets are 6-3-1 in the last 10 games and with 62 points the Jets are right behind the Yotes in the standing, although Coyotes have two games in hand on the Jets. Last time these two teams met, the Jets cruised to 5-1 victory in head coach Paul Maurice’s debut. Since Maurice took over, the Jets are 4-1-0 at home at the MTS Centre. Evander Kane returns to the lineup after missing six games with a hand injury. Olympian Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in points and goalscoring with 22 goals and 48 total points in 60 games. Ondrej Pavelec is 18-22-4 with a 2.97 GAA and .901 SV%.
Keys to the game for the Coyotes:
Keep it simple – Starting things up on the road after a long break, the Coyotes needs to play a simple away game and minimize mistakes, especially in the defensive end.
Special teams – Coyotes has a high-ranking power play (8th in the league) and it needs to be effective when playing on the road. The Jets penalty kill is one of the better ones (6th in the league) so Ribeiro needs to do his magic when given the opportunity. Yotes PK is pretty poor (24th) but should get better with Michalek back healthy. The Jets power play is equally poor (25th) but with Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane the Jets can put on significant pressure.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Team Sweden misused Ekman-Larsson during the Olympics, only giving him limited playing time in the final and sitting him out for the whole semifinal game. Back with the Coyotes, OEL should be seeing plenty of time on the ice and he will probably be fired up to show that he deserved a bigger role for the Swedes.