FLAMES SET FOR DESERT DUEL WITH COYOTES
CALGARY, AB – Starting the season with just one win in their first five games, the Phoenix Coyotes have quickly turned their season around.
A 5-2-1 record in the month of February has quickly propelled the Coyotes into the Western Conference’s top-eight and into a playoff position. Led by the strong play of Martin Hanzal and with goaltender Mike Smith returning to top form from a season ago, the Coyotes have shaken their early-season struggles.
Therein lies the challenge for the Flames, who nabbed six of a possible eight points in four games against Phoenix last year.
One of the offensive leaders in Phoenix, Hanzal has been on fire in his past eight games. Scoring six times and adding a pair of helpers over that time, the six-foot-six center currently sits second in both Coyotes hits-per-game and scoring despite playing in just 11 of the team’s 15 contests this season.
After scoring 17 goals and 49 points as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins a year ago, Sullivan was signed this summer with the hope of replacing some of the offense lost with the departure of Ray Whitney. With just two assists in the prior eight games – both coming against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday – Sullivan still has more punch to provide.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
One of the best goaltenders in the NHL last season, Smith is starting to round into form in February that saw him record a 2.21 goals against average and .930 save percentage a season ago. Shaking off a lower-body injury in January, Smith has helped lift Phoenix to a 6-2-2 record in their past 10 games.
The busiest member of the Coyotes this season, Ekman-Larsson has played over 25 minutes a night in Phoenix. That’s not his only contribution to the cause either with three goals and eight points in 15 games this season. The 21-year-old former first round pick is starting to round into the form of a top-pairing defenseman.
Nearly five years after making him the eighth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Coyotes are starting to see the potential out of Boedker. Despite the shortened season, it’s not inconceivable that the Dane establishes new career bests in both assists and points. With an average of 18:55 of playing time each game, Boedker is the most utilized forward in Phoenix’s arsenal.
BY THE NUMBERS
Phoenix’s Record This Season: 7-6-2 (8th in Western Conference)
Phoenix’s Record Last Season: 42-27-13 (3rd in Western Conference)
Calgary’s Record This Season: 5-5-3 (12th in Western Conference)
Calgary’s Record All-Time: 78-65-20-6
Calgary’s Record Head-To-Head Last Year: 2-0-2
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