Things aren't too different from the last time we met our desert foes. The Ducks are standing atop both the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings looking down. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes are fighting tooth and nail just to remain contenders for the last spot in this year's ultra-competitive Western Conference playoffs.
The Phoenix Coyotes started the season strong but have teetered off since. They are coming off a brutal 4-1 beating by the Minnesota Wild, that moved them out of the 8th playoff spot in the tight Western Conference race. This will be their last chance to steal a game away from the high-flying Ducks in the regular season.
Keys to the Game:
Ummm, how about showing up FIRST PERIOD and "just playing their game" as they usually like to point out during intermissions? When the Coyotes have a good night shooting, then they have a lights out good night shooting. So the Ducks will do well to avoid all that and relieve Hiller of seeing too rubber since he's going to have some big games this coming week.
The Coyotes have not been very disciplined in several areas and the Ducks would do well in exposing those weaknesses to cruise by the Yotes. The return of Shane Doan has led to rise in offensive production, but the Coyotes can still struggle in that department. So instead of granting them the easy access into the defensive zone, the Ducks should look to pressure from within the neutral zone. Forced turnovers can result in odd man rushes for the Ducks (I'm looking at you third line). With that being said, the seven giveaways that we saw in the first against the Predators is completely unacceptable and cannot be repeated against this team.
The special teams may also come into play seeing as the Ducks are beginning to find their groove back when it comes to having the man-advantage; The Coyotes on the other hand, are having a bit of trouble when it comes to falling short one man.
Another key is to continue dominating in the face-off circle. The Ducks have been doing pretty well lately in winning those puck drops, and if they can continue their consistency, this will help in maintaining offensive pressure, especially when it come to the power play.
The Ducks will need to continue to watch out for the highly talented, offensive defensemen: Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. And don't leave Duck-killer Mike Ribeiro floating around--he likes to do his share of damage.
What Can We Learn From this Game: First period woes ring a bell? No really, the Ducks will do best by snapping out of this first period slump in order to prepare for the upcoming week's big games against Detroit, Vancouver, and a back-to-back against Chicago and St. Louis. It would be nice for the Ducks to start a new trend of more consistent 60-minute puck possession game. Can the Ducks snap out of it before coming home?
Lately, the grit and a relentless will to win have allowed the Ducks to come back after trailing behind. But the Coyotes have a lot on the line as well--so let's not make this a battle of wills and instead make it a battle of skills, which the Ducks should have more than enough of to come out with two points.
Fearless Prediction: Recent-snub Keith Yandle tries paying off Kid USA Cam Fowler for his spot on USA's Olympic Squad but gets promptly dragged away by fellow Czech snubbee Radim Vrbata.
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.