Well, for those who read NHTProductions (those who have stuck through the time where the blog has been dark) they know we don't do game previews here. It's just never been a part of the lineup.
However, considering these are my teams, the two teams I watch night in and night out, I thought I'd take a few minutes and preview tonight's tilt in the desert between the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes!
Last 10: 3-6-1, Lost 4
Road Record: 12-10-3
Conference Standing: 9
Division Standing: 4
Goals For: 138
Goals Against: 150
Most Goals: 29 (Gaborik)
Most Points: 61 (Gaborik)
Top Goalie Stats: Hank - GAA: 2.40, S%: .920, Wins: 22, SH: 2
Last 10: 5-4-1, Won 2
Home Record: 20-8-2 (3rd best behind VAN, CHI)
Conference Standing: 4
Division Standing: 2
Goals For: 147
Goals Against: 141
Most Goals: 18 (Upshall)
Most Points: 39 (Doan)
Top Goalie Stats: Bryz - GAA: 2.35 S%: .918, Wins: 28, SH: 5
Since losing 3 games in a row earlier this month, the Coyotes have won five of their last seven games, including four of their last five at home.
After winning two in a row and scoring a combined 14 goals in those games two weeks ago (v. MTL and TBL), the Rangers have dropped four straight, two at home and two on the road.
The Coyotes had a thrilling 5-4 comeback win on Tuesday night versus Detroit. They trailed 4-2 late in the game, but scored two goals in the final 1:30 to tie the game. Captain Shane Doan then won the game on a beautiful goal against Jimmy Howard in overtime.
The Rangers had what many would argue was one of their poorest efforts versus Carolina on Wednesday night. They generated just four shots in the first, and went down 2-0 in the games beginning minutes. After scoring to make it 2-1 early in the second, the Rangers gave up the 3rd Carolina goal just 41 seconds later, putting the game handily out of reach.
The Rangers are fundamentally unsound. They shocked everyone by scoring 14 goals in those two combined games versus Montreal and Tampa Bay but since their 3-1 win in Boston on January 10th, they've been shut out FOUR times, and have scored only four goals in their other three games, all losses. They think the West coast trip is coming at the perfect time, but the Rangers have not shown to be good on West Coast trips in recent memory. Avery talks about needing to get the team on the same page, and Prospal talks about needing to practice more. The main problem is that they can't score, and if Gaborik isn't scoring, which he hasn't been, this team has proven exactly what they are: not good enough.
The Coyotes, after struggling in early January and seeing the brilliant Ilya Brzygalov become slightly less brilliant, have looked much better as of late. For those that don't know them, they don't score tons (although they have scored more than the Rangers) but they play as a team, and get goals when needed, from different sources in different games. They play tight defensively, provide strong puck support, and play a team game that doesn't give opposition much room to move. If they get down, they feel they can come back (ie: Tuesday's game versus Detroit, and a game against the Islanders where they trailed 4-0 and came back to get a point). Even more so, when they do things wrong and they don't play "Coyotes hockey," they know it and they don't need to be told what to correct. They are the team that everyone (almost) was surprised about and that no one expected to still be around, but they are. Their biggest difficulty will be if leading scorer and team leader Scottie Upshall is out for any length of time.
Korpikoski scored both Phoenix goals in Phoenix's loss to the Capitals a week ago, and was one of two Coyotes to score in the shootout win versus Calgary Thursday night. He's been what Don Maloney calls one of his nicest surprises. He's not flashy, but he's good on the PK, strong on the puck, and has gotten A LOT of big shootout goals for the Coyotes this season.
Team favorite Petr Prucha has been a big part of Phoenix's top line this season. Often matched against the other teams best lines, they play shutdown, in addition to providing much needed offense. Vrbata is second in goal scoring with 16, and Prucha is 4th with 11. It really has been a resurgence for the former Ranger in Phoenix as he has scored more goals than he did in any season since 06-07 and has seen his shooting percentage rise to it's highest point in the last three seasons. A renewed confidence has shown in increased puck control, cycling, and something that may surprise Rangers fans: faceoffs. Prucha takes a good amount of his lines faceoffs, even with having someone like Martin Hanzal, on his line and has done well enough to be called upon more as the season has progressed. A smile always on his face, he's fit in well and easily with his hard-working team in Phoenix.
Rangers draft-pick Jason LaBarbera (3-4-1 in 10 games) will get the start for the Coyotes tonight against his former team.
Overall, nothing looks overly promising about the Rangers road trip into the West against three really tough opponents that begins tonight. This could be a blowout game for Phoenix if their sticks are hot, and even if they aren't, the Rangers haven't exactly proven they can light the lamp recently, so this may prove to be a 2-1, 2-0 type game in the end.
WHO AM I ROOTING FOR?:
Well I can't be disappointed EITHER way, but I think the one thing all Prucha fans can hope for is that he has a great game against his former team. A hat trick would be the ultimate, but any goal would be nice.
Honestly, if it's a good game, as good as I've hoped it'd be all season as I looked forward to it, I'll be happy.