The Phoenix Coyotes, to put it succinctly, are the hottest thing going in the NHL right now. They've won EIGHT games in a row (correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe the Stars have ever won 8 in a row). The NHL Networks' decision to air the Blackhawk/Coyote game at the last minute proved to be a great move, as the Coyotes made a third period comeback, eventually winning in a shootout last night.
It was only the third sellout of the season for the Coyotes (how do you have that many wins and three sellouts?). Phoenix has 95 points. San Jose has 96, and a game in hand. The Coyotes 8-2-0 mark over their last 10 games in the best in the NHL. Bolstered by their moves at the trade deadline, Wolski and Stempniak in particular, the Coyotes are now capable of winning a game in a variety of different ways, not just on the back of Ilya Bryzgalov.
There's an intangible "it factor" about that Coyote team (led by Dave Tippett) that makes tonight's game a big challenge for the defunct Dallas Stars, who came back to beat Ottawa 5-4 on Saturday afternoon. Dominated territorially for long stretches, particularly in the second period, the Stars took advantage of the opportunities afforded them and got slightly better goaltending in the win over a similarly struggling Senator team.
These two teams meet Sunday at 6:00pm CDT at the American Airlines Center. Will Phoenix finally have an emotional let down of sorts, or will they keep rolling with San Jose now centered in their cross-hairs?
Follow the jump for more on both teams, starting goaltenders, and an injury update...
Kari Lehtonen made his third straight start on Saturday. Having won two of them, he'll yield the net to Marty on Sunday and Turco will attempt to rekindle the magic he had against Phoenix in February as he shut the Coyotes out twice in 7 days.
Despite those two shutout wins (4-0, and 3-0) the Coyotes still lead the season series 3 games to 2.
Talk in Stars-land this morning leans more toward off-ice and off-season issues following Joe Nieuwendyk's interview on The Ticket yesterday afternoon. Joe discussed Modano's possible retirement, and the often tossed-out idea that the Stars could entertain keeping Marty Turco. Listen with caution, and remain skeptical.
The home back-to-back has become a yearly tradition these last 4 seasons. Dallas does quite well in them, historically. Until last year...
|Season||Game 1||Game 2|
|2006-2007||Anaheim (0) @ Dallas (1) W||Colorado(5) @ Dallas (7) W|
|2007-2008||Columbus(1) @ Dallas (3) W||Anaheim(2) @ Dallas (5) W|
|2008-2009||Anaheim(4) @ Dallas (3) L||Pittsburgh (4) @ Dallas (1) L|
The lines yesterday were nigh indefinable. They started off like they had in recent contests, then degenerated into a hodgepodge of different confusing combinations and double shifts. Ribeiro double shifted with the Barch line, resulting in a goal. He original trio of Morrow/Ribeiro/Segal soon had Lehtinen on it. Segal spent time with Benn and Neal, and so did Toby Petersen. Only the Richards/Ott/Eriksson line seemed unchanged as the game wore on.
It's hard to argue with the results (5 goals) but it's equally as hard to predict combos for Sunday action.
Matt Niskanen played instead of Woywitka. I have an opinion on that. That's all I'm going to say on the matter.
The glowing review I gave the Coyotes at the beginning of the preview not withstanding, I think I'll let some video do the rest of the talking. This is a serious club with a serious vibe and serious goals. They're just "finding a way" right now and are gunning for that top spot occupied by San Jose in the division. Beware.
Forgive my cynicism, but it seems like an awful lot of of that "sellout crowd" is pulling for the Blackhawks.
Dallas: Modano(appendix), Wandell (knee)
Phoenix: Robert Lang (lower body) and Mathieu Schneider (old age) are questionable. Kurt Sauer (upper body) and Scottie Upshall (knee) are out.