Coyotes/Ducks Preview: Taking Offense

Jeff Gross

Phoenix's tagline for the season is "Hungrier Than Ever." So far that's looking pretty accurate offensively.

While the Ducks gear up for a season long eight game, 15 day road trip, the Coyotes are entering a critical part of their young season. After having played almost exclusively Eastern Conference opponents, six of their next seven games are played within the division starting tonight.

Keys to the Game: The Ducks need to stop the Coyotes from scoring. While that's about as obvious as it gets, it is actually a bit of a departure from the past when all the focus would be on cracking Dave Tippett's system and Mike Smith in goal.

Phoenix is currently scoring at an un-Phoenix-like pace so far this season, averaging 2.86 goals per game. The last time they finished a season with a higher GF/G average was the wacky post-lockout 2005-06 season (2.95) and since then they've only broken the 2.6 mark once (2011, 2.76).

In their wins the Coyotes are averaging 3.75 goals per game and only 1.67 in their losses, including a 4-3 OT loss to Ottawa on Tuesday, otherwise it would be even lower. On the other hand, they're averaging 3.00 goals against per game overall and a whopping 4.66 in their losses.

As you would expect, the Coyotes' scoring has been pretty well spread throughout the lineup. They have 18 players with at least a point on the roster, to the Ducks' 19. Radim Verbata and Martin Hanzal lead the charge with six points a piece. No surprise there, however new acquisition Mike Ribeiro (remember him? He's back in the division, Grrrr.) and Shane Doan are quite a bit lower on the scoring sheet than I would have imagined at eighth and ninth, respectively.

Considering Phoenix scored four or more goals against the Ducks three times last season (back-to-back insane 5-4 shootout wins, and a 5-3 actual win), it shouldn't really come as a surprise that the Coyotes can be dangerous offensively, but reputations linger sometimes.

What Can We Learn From This Game: So far, it's been a season of quick starts for the Ducks. They've scored in the first 11 minutes of each of their five wins (and the first six minutes in four of those). They even had their chances early on in that abomination of a season opener at Colorado, but couldn't capitalize and paid for it later.

The Coyotes haven't been as good to start, giving up the same number of first period goals (6) and scoring half as many (4 to the Ducks' 8) with one more game played. Could that trend continue? It would certainly be nice.

A lot of us on AC predicted the Dustin Penner experiment to fall flat this year, and when he was scratched in the season opener it was looking like we'd be unfortunately right. While it's still very early, he has two goals and four points in only four games played, whereas last year he had two goals in 33 GP and the year before that only seven in 65. The revival is far from complete, but he seems to be on the right track toward living up to a more reasonable contract this year, which is all we should be asking of him.

Fearless Prediction: Mike Ribeiro is a dick. Wait... that isn't really a prediction. Mike Ribeiro will be a dick. That's better, definitely not afraid of that one failing to come true.

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