Four points. That is what separate these teams. 2 wins. The Coyotes are tied for the top of the Pacific division. Calgary is second in the Northwest and not going to catch Vancouver. Both captains are alumni of the Kamloop Blazers. Olli Jokinen and Lee Stempniak were Coyotes before they were Flames. Daymond Langkow went from Phoenix to Calgary and back to Phoenix.
Radim Vrbata is five points away from a career high. Shane Doan is two goals away from tying his team leading tally from last year. Mike Smith has been on fire and keeping the Coyotes playoff hopes alive. Even without Taylor Pyatt (IR) and Kyle Chipchura (elbow) the Coyotes have been getting second line contributions from Mikkel Boedker and Rafi Torres. The defense has been solid thanks to Chris Summers filling in for Derek Morris (leave of absence). The penalty kill bending but not breaking even strength and short handed thanks to forwards Boyd Gordon and Martin Hanzal. The power play led by Ray Whitney won the game Tuesday versus the LA Kings. Doan and Vrbata got the goals, but Ray Whitney is the straw that stirred the drink.
The following is from the Calgary Flames website and written by Brian Hunter, staff writer for NHL.com. He gets full credit for the table below.
What we have here are two evenly matched teams that have everything to play for. Calgary to get back into the top 8. Phoenix to take the lead in the Pacific and be the 3rd seed in the West. Let someone else handle Detroit and Vancouver in the opening round.
Calgary is without Glencross and Stempniak. Two players who get hot at playoff time and are offensive threats. Mikka Kiprusoff was pulled against Edmonton on way to a 6-1 loss. It is unclear who will be in net to face the juggernaut known as Vrbata. The Coyotes are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Calgary is 5-2-3. We’ll see Andrew Vermette wearing number 50 and getting plenty of 3rd or 4th line ice time. Hanzal will be 1st line (against Jokinen), Gordon will get 2nd line with Doan and Boedker. Vermette and Langkow will have 3rd and 4th. With the forward depth thin due to the hit on Brule, expect to see Bissonnette get some ice time on the energy line.
My prediction, Phoenix 4-2.