The Islanders, fresh off their loss to Anaheim Ducks last night at the Honda Center, are in town for their Western Conference swing. The Coyotes, home for a night between grueling road trips, have this labeled as a must win.
Why is it a must win? The Islanders are last in the East with a record of 14-18-6 for 34 points. Their goal differential is a -33. This means they are not scoring and letting in alot of goals. They are 6-9-3 on the road. The Ducks helped the Coyotes by putting a good beating on the Islanders last night. The Islanders have their off-ice issues as well. The team is in turmoil off the ice as well. The owners (Wang family) want a new arena. Plans have been made, but the county and taxpayers are not going to help finance a new arena. The Nassau Coliseum is perhaps the worst venue in professional sports to watch a game. Let’s not forget the commute to get to the arena, the prayers your car will not be on blocks after the game, and the fine amenities at the coliseum. There are too few bathrooms, so port-a-potties are employed. Nice touch Long Island. You thought it was tough to travel I-10 and then the 101 until the HOV lane was installed? An hour to get from east side to the arena is called flying in Long Island.
On ice issues include former Coyote Al Montoya (G) listed day-to-day with concussion symptoms. Perpetually injured and money pit Rick DePietro is out. Evgeni Nabakov is the starter by default. His record is 5-9 with a 2.61 goals against. Joining them in the infirmary are Katic, Moltau, Pandolfo (just removed from IR), and Ullstrom. The team has scored 87 goals but let in 120 (Phoenix is 101 goals for and 108 goals against). So, their goalies are getting little help up front and the forwards are not putting pucks in the opposing net. Excellent. This is a tailor made team to come to town for the Coyotes to get a fresh start for the second half of the season.
John Tavares is leading the Islanders with 13 goals, 22 assists for 35 points. Matt Moulson has the team lead in goals with 18, and you have Michael Grabner chipping in 10 goals with 7 helpers. My favorite named player PA Parenteau has 25 apples to go with his 7 goals. That ladies is gentlemen, are the players you need to watch out for. Kyle Okposo is underperforming for a player of his skill level and amount of ice time. Is he ready for a breakout game? Please God not tonight. The Coyotes and their fans cannot stand another loss to a team they should hammer like MC.
Who is coming to play for the Coyotes? Coach Tippett recently talked about second line contributions and every play giving more. Guys like Shane Doan and Taylor Pyatt have to get on the board. Being in front of the goal and just taking shots are not enough. They have to score. They have to be setting up other players for the tap in. Ray Whitney can only do so much. His ability to move the puck around is limited by the amount the players without the puck moving to the open ice. Ray will find you. That is what he does. Only this year he is hammering the puck into the back of the net as well as getting his assists.Ray has been going into the corners and doing the dirty work. Desperate times call for desperate actions. He deserves to be rewarded with a trip to Ottawa for the All-Star game.
Lauri Korpikoski and Mikkel Boedker started the year off well and were using their speed to make plays. The pass to himself off the board as he blows by you thanks to his speed that Lauri employed early in the year hasn’t worked out too well lately. Players are expecting it and defending against it. Boedker’s speed is an asset as well as his stickhandling. Lauri has the same skill set. It is time for Lauri to have that breakout game and get a hat trick for the home crowd. Give us something to get pumped up over. I’ve had the same hat for three years. It is begging to get some ice time. Make it happen.
Guys like Kyle Chipchura and Marc-Antoine Pouloit are making the most of their ice time. For Chipchura, it is like he knows this is a make it or break it chance. Pouloit is showing his skills, which are amazing, for the Coyotes or some other team looking to add depth to their forwards. He has the look of someone making a name for himself.
On the Defensive side of things Adrian Aucoin has to unleash the 100 mph slapper (if he is playing after taking a puck to the face). God love him, Rusty Klesla is jumping in the play and getting off great shots, but he makes Nuke LaLoosh look like Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle. Translation, Klesla needs to pick a target and aim for it. His shots are wide or high above the net. He is getting the open look just not putting it on the goalie. The greasy rebounds are a forwards best friend. He needs to sit on the plane next to Vrbata and learn from a sharpshooter.
On a last note, play sixty minutes of Coyote hockey. The Coyotes are the least penalized team in the NHL, averaging just over 8 minutes of PK play a game. Keep it that way. Score early and often. Stay out of the sin bin, and do not watch the puck. Put on a show for the Hard Way Heroes.
Prediction. Coyotes win 5-2. Cantor Sports Book said my action is too hot for them. You go get the easy money.