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MAKE OR BREAK 5 GAME HOMESTAND

Thursday, 03.06.2008 / 2:01 PM / Features
By Heath Price-Khan
The Phoenix Coyotes head into the beginning of this crucial five game homestand with a disappointing record of 14-15-3 at Jobing.com Arena. However, after last night’s gutty 2-1 victory over the Stars in Dallas, this team may be ready to turn the corner on home ice. With fifteen games to go in the season this will represent one third of what is left in the Coyotes run at a postseason berth. Nine of those final fifteen games will be in Glendale so a “Whiteout” in the desert is certainly possible if the Coyotes can establish a winning presence in their own barn.

March 6th, 2008 vs. Montreal Canadiens

Game one of this crucial stretch for the Coyotes brings one of the “Original Six” to Glendale as the Montreal Canadiens make a rare appearance in the Valley of the Sun. The Canadiens have been charging up the Eastern Conference standings led by a deadly power play that ranks number one in the NHL. It will be mission critical for the Coyotes to limit the number of times they give Montreal a man advantage. With Alexei Kovalev, and two of the top 5 scoring defenseman in the league (Andrei Markov 51pts and Mark Streit 49pts) this is a dangerous team that has its eyes focused on the number one spot in the East.

March 8th, 2008 vs. Ottawa Senators

The line of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, and Daniel Alfredsson comes to town with the high powered offensive attack of the Senators. That will mean a very busy night for the Coyotes backline powered by the shut down tandem of Keith Ballard and Derek Morris. Stopping Ottawa’s big line, or at least slowing them down will be the key to victory in this game. Once again, staying out of the penalty box, and limiting the power play opportunities for the Sens will be very important.

March 11th, 2008 vs. Anaheim Ducks

It certainly does not get any easier when the red hot Anaheim Ducks come to town as Teemu Selanne makes his first appearance of the year at Jobing.com Arena. This is a much different team than the Coyotes faced earlier in the season now that Selanne and Scott Niedermayer are leading the charge. The defending Stanley Cup Champions look poised to make another run at the cup and they are getting hot at the right time. On the flip side, the Coyotes have put up an amazing record against their rivals in the tough Pacific Division. With a 16-7 record in division games, Phoenix has shown they can go toe to toe with the NHL’s best.

March 13th, 2008 vs. Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are a team the Coyotes are currently chasing in the standings so this will undoubtedly be a very important game. With superstar goalie Roberto Luongo between the pipes, the Canucks have the ability to steal games in which they are outplayed. The key to beating the 6’ 3” imposing goalie is to get him moving from side to side and put a lot of traffic in front of him. The Coyotes will have to get pucks to the net and create havoc in front of the crease.

March 15th, 2008 vs. Edmonton Oilers

When you look at this five game homestand, the Edmonton Oilers stand out as the most beatable opponent, but they hammered the Coyotes 5-2 on January 10th at Rexall Place. They also triumphed over Phoenix back on October 18th, 2007 at Jobing.com Arena by a score of 4-2 so clearly the Oilers have had the Coyotes number this season.

Getting off to a better start in the first period will be the key to victory in this one. The Oilers have jumped on the Coyotes for four goals in the first frame during these two meetings. The Coyotes are yet to tally a first period goal against Edmonton this season so scoring the first goal in this game could be the moment that propels this team to a much needed victory.

By the time this game ends, the Coyotes will be down to just ten games remaining in the season. They might be sitting in a playoff spot, or even further away from the 8th spot in the West. One thing is for certain, when this campaign ends this will be a segment of the season that the players and coaches know had a major impact on their year.

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