Game 38 Preview: Phoenix Coyotes @ Ottawa Senators
It's hero time.
The Ottawa Senators look to re-right the ship they righted on Monday night with an overtime win against a good team from the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues. Since then, the team has lost two straight games via lackluster performance and some tough officiating. After lurching all over the place like a guy getting knocked out in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!, the Senators had managed to claw their way to within striking distance of a playoff spot by collecting points in their recent games. That work was undone with their last two losses--they currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with 34 points.
But all is not lost. A win today would temporarily tie the Senators with the Philadelphia Flyers for the 8th seed in the conference.
Almost every team Ottawa is chasing--including Philadelphia--plays later tonight, so it's unlikely Ottawa's vault out of 12th place will last too long if they win, but as bad as things have gone, a win keeps them in striking distance.
Since Paul MacLean has proven that practice lines don't mean anything (yet we continue to get worked up over them) I'm just going to make up my own:
Meanwhile, expect to see something like this for Phoenix:
- For a team that plays such a committed defensive game, the Coyotes are fast.
- Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is a known diver.
- Shane Doan (illness) and Zbynek Michalek (lower body, IGROJY!) will miss today's game. Huge break for Ottawa there.
- Forward Lauri Korpikoski is expected to return from injury today, but I'm not sure wo will come out of the lineup for him.
- The Coyotes, like the Senators, are 4-4-2 in their last 10, and are 0-2-1 in their last three. They've scored just three goals in those three games.
- So... OTTAWA SLUMPBUSTERS!
- Ottawa, of course, is 1-2-0 in its last three games. They've scored 7 goals in that span. So, that's better than Phoenix.
- They've also allowed 11 goals. Whoops.
- Mika Zibanejad suffered an upper-body injury and may not play. Cory Conacher will take his place if he can't go.
- Craig Anderson gets the start, because he is a goaltender.
- Anderson, by the way, wasn't the problem in the loss to Florida, so it looks like this is just a case of MacLean trying to build a little momentum for one of his guys. If I were the coach, I'd be starting Robin Lehner.
- Joe Corvo gets the bench (spoiler alert: Watch for biggest losses on Monday as my Joe Corvo hate rears its ugly head) while Eric Gryba gets a shot. I think I can live with a Phillips-Gryba third pairing.
- Patrick Wiercioch doesn't get to play because Cody Ceci is playing like how Patrick Weircioch should be playing.
- It's an afternoon game, which is good for ratings money, but very bad for less important things... like winning.
- As mentioned, pretty much all of the teams Ottawa is chasing are in action tonight. Detroit plays Toronto in a game that's guaranteed to go to overtime because that's the worst case for Ottawa, but there's legitimate chance Ottawa actually gains ground with a win in this game.
- Does that make this game a must-win?