Sorry SOB. You slept in. No game for you tonight.
The Vancouver Canucks return home for one game as they face the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at GM Place, and the Canucks have a tough test on their hands tonight. While the Canucks have cooled off lately, the Coyotes have been arguably the NHL’s best in the past three weeks.
Since the trade deadline, the Phoenix Coyotes have been almost unbeatable. The additions of Lee Stempniak and Wojtek Wolski have been nothing short of spectacular, as they have both added an element of scoring to a team that needed some punch up front. Stempniak and Wolski have combined for 9 points each of their last two games. This has also picked up the overall offensive play of the entire team, as other players like Matthew Lombardi and Derek Morris have been chipping in more.
The Coyotes have arguably been the best NHL team defensively, led by sure-bet Vezina candidate Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz has been lights-out all season, and even better lately. In his last 10 games, he’s 8-1-1, with a 1.85 GAA and a .938 Sv%. That’s simply amazing.
So while the Canucks can cures their usual ails by simply outscoring a team, that won’t be easy against Phoenix. That said, in this series, the winning team has scored at least 3 goals, and all three wins have gone to the home team. The two games in Phoenix were close, hard-fought, shootout victories by the Coyotes. The game in Vancouver was a one-sided win for Vancouver. Furthermore the Canucks, having last played on the road, are 10-1-1 in their first game back at home. So that tips the scale a little to Vancouver.
But here’s an interesting stat that tips it back to Phoenix. Both teams last played on Saturday, so they’ll have two days off coming in to tonight’s game. The Canucks are 6-5-0 on two days rest, while the Coyotes are 7-1-1.
It’s hard to say what to expect out of today’s game. The Coyotes have more to play for tonight, as they try to chase San Jose for the division and conference lead. The Canucks are almost a lock for 3rd and only 3rd in the division, so their motivation may be a bit lacking. And it’s tough to get truly excited about playing the Phoenix Coyotes.
I’m guessing the Canucks will come out flat, and will have to fight from behind the whole game, and in the end, will come up short. I don’t regularly predict game outcomes in the Game day Roll Call, but I am today. I’ll say 3-2 Coyotes with Vancouver goals going to Grabner and Wellwood. I’m saying now that the top line of the Sedins and Burrows will be a non-factor tonight.
You heard it here first. Let the screaming begin.
*NOTES* – It appears as though Shane O’Brien will be out of the lineup tonight, after an incident involving the team practice yesterday. According Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, O’Brien arrived at an 11 AM practice at 10:55 am, and was replaced in the lineup with Andrew Alberts. Coach Alain Vigneault seemed quite irked by O’Brien’s lack of promptness and yanked him from tonight’s roster.