The Scouting Report: Phoenix Coyotes
CALGARY, AB -- Two points is all that separates the Phoenix Coyotes and the Detroit Red Wings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
A win over the Calgary Flames coupled by a Red Wings loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday could see the Coyotes draw even at 44 points with Detroit, setting up a furious seven-game stretch for both clubs looking to compete for Lord Stanley's Cup.
Flames Season Series Record: 1-1-0
The Flames and Coyotes have split the season series to date, with each taking their home date.
Phoenix shut out the Flames back on February 18th on the strength of a 26-save performance from Mike Smith. The team also received goals from four different scorers in Daniel Taylor's first career NHL start.
Joey MacDonald extracted some revenge on the Coyotes just six days later in just his fourth start with the Flames, taking a 5-4 victory in Calgary after getting some help Jarome Iginla's tying goal with 1:23 remaining in the game before Curtis Glencross' game winner with exactly one minute remaining in the game.
GAA: 2.59 | SVP: 0.910
Inconsistent in his play this season, Smith is currently riding a hot stretch that has seen him allow just three goals in his last four appearances, including a shutout over the Colorado Avalanche on April 6th that snapped a personal four-game winless skid. The six-foot-four stopper has a 2.59 goals against average and .910 save percentage and will need to be even better to sneak the ninth-place Coyotes into the playoffs.
SOG: 77 | +/-: 1
With just two assists in his last five games, the Coyotes will need more scoring out of the 31-year-old Vrbata down the stretch. After scoring 35 goals for Phoenix a season ago, the Czech forward has found the back of the net just seven times in 26 games this season. Vrbata's total production is still consistent with last season, though, recording 20 points in 26 games after 62 in 77 contests a season ago.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
One of the National Hockey League's most dynamic defensemen under the age of 22, Ekman-Larsson has shown to be one of the team's most valuable pieces. The rearguard is fourth in team scoring with 21 points in 40 games while leading the team with over 25 minutes of ice time a night.
Though he hasn't produced to the level that Ekman-Larsson has, Morris' contributions haven't gone overlooked. The former Flames defenseman is second on the team with 64 blocks and leads the blueline with 87 hits this season. Though he's without a goal on the season, Morris' 10 assists are more than adequate production out of the rearguard.
There isn't much Boedker hasn't given head coach Dave Tippett this season. Through 40 games, 23-year-old has already matched his career-high in points of 24, set last season over the full 82-game schedule. That total gives Boedker a share of the team lead with Shane Doan, while his 23 takeaways also matches the Coyotes captain for team-best.