The Calgary Flames are ascending in the Pacific Division while the Arizona Coyotes have made themselves comfortable in the cellar right out of the chute. The streaking Flames vie for their fifth straight victory and 10th in 14 contests on Thursday, when they conclude a brief two-game road trip against slumping Arizona.
Calgary Flames vs Arizona Coyotes
When: 9:00 PM ET, Thursday, December 8, 2016
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale, Arizona
|17||CALGARY||0 (-110)||5 (-110)||-120
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Sportsnet (Calgary), FSN Arizona
PREDICTION: Flames 4, Coyotes 2
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Calgary Flames are on a four-game winning streak, and they won seven of their past 10 (7-2-1).
The Arizona Coyotes are on a five-game losing streak, and they dropped 10 of their past 13 (3-6-4).
Why the disparity in play? Sometimes, the simplest explanation is the best.
“For me, it’s been three things,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Wednesday as the team took part in an off-ice workout at Gila River Arena. “We’re getting stops from our goalie, our top guys have been excellent and in this little run we’re on, I think our power play is top 10 in the league and our PK (penalty kill) is like fifth. It really is that simple.”
Calgary (14-13-2) opened the season at 5-10-1, and the struggles were compounded by left winger Johnny Gaudreau’s broken pinkie, which forced him to miss 10 games.
Even before Gaudreau returned to the lineup on Sunday, however, the Flames were getting big contributions from center Sean Monahan (three goals, seven points in his last five games), goalie Chad Johnson (9-2 with a .931 save percentage since assuming the starting goaltending duties from Brian Elliott) and others.
Gaudreau has two goals and four points in the two games since his return, and the Flames are rolling.
“I think we did a good job through the time Johnny wasn’t here in establishing a base of play,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. “Now that we get an offensive catalyst like Johnny in the mix, it just gives us a few more chances every game.”
The Coyotes (8-13-4) owns the second-lowest point total in the NHL. Arizona scored more than two goals just three times in its last 13 games.
“It’s the lack of good plays being made,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “Usually the top players on your team make good plays, whether it’s on the power play or creating chances. We’re not getting enough of those made. Then you look at some grind plays; should be able to grind some chances out. Not getting enough of those plays. Just not creating enough offense.”
Of Arizona’s 25 games this season, 17 were decided by one goal, leading Tippett to believe his team is close to breaking through. However, Arizona is also being outshot 35.1 to 28.2 on a per-game average. Only goalie Mike Smith (.924 save percentage) is saving the Coyotes from a worse fate on a nightly basis.
“We have to do a better job helping Smitty out,” Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said.
On Thursday, Smith is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes for the 10th time since returning from a left leg injury on Nov. 16. Smith has stopped 301 of 324 shots over that stretch for a .929 save percentage. Center Brad Richardson is out indefinitely with a broken tibia and fibula he sustained on Nov. 17 at Vancouver.
Johnson is expected to start in goal for the Flames. Left winger Lance Bouma is still out of the lineup due to a shoulder injury.