By Dave Vest
ANAHEIM – The Coyotes will play the Ducks tonight on a second consecutive Saturday. Phoenix beat Anaheim, 3-2, in a shootout a week ago in Glendale. Saturday’s game is at the Honda Center. The puck drops at 8 p.m. (Arizona time).
Last week’s game was a physical match that included a nasty hit on Coyotes captain Shane Doan’s head delivered by Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski. The NHL suspended Wisniewski for two games for the hit. Ironically, he returns to the lineup tonight.
“(Anaheim) is a big, physical team, and their game every night against everybody is to be abrasive and to be a bully,” Coyotes Assistant Coach Dave King said. “If you don’t stand up to these guys, it’s not going to be a good night. … We can’t go in there and be a bunch of lambs. We have to go in there and play real strong and show them that that’s not going to be an aspect of the game that they’re going to win.”
Ilya Bryzgalov will make his third straight start in goal for the Coyotes (10-6-0). Bryzgalov enters the game with a 9-4-0 record and a 1.81 goals-against average. He has allowed two goals or fewer in nine of his 13 starts.
Anaheim (5-7-2) has earned just six points in its first nine home games. Goalie Jonas Hiller stopped all 40 shots he faced in his last outing vs. Nashville on Thursday.
Regarding Wisniewski’s return, Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle told the team’s official Website that Wisniewski mustn’t alter his aggressive approach.
“He’s got to play his game,” Carlyle said. “Just be himself. Play hard. I don’t think you have to worry about his commitment to the battle. But he can’t be sidetracked. Our focus is winning the hockey game. Anything short of that is unacceptable.”
Coyotes center Martin Hanzal has scored three goals in the past six games and notched his first multi-point game of the season on Thursday. He had a goal and an assist vs. Chicago.
Ducks right wing Corey Perry is averaging 1.3 points per game. He enters Saturday’s game with a career-high seven-game point streak (six goals, five assists).
The Coyotes will be without defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday’s 3-1 victory over Chicago. Jovanovski is considered “day-to-day.” Defenseman Shaun Heshka will make his NHL debut in Jovanovski's place.
Some are expecting Coyotes captain Shane Doan and Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski to be fired up more than usual for this game given what happened between them last Saturday when Wisniewski delivered a forearm to Doan’s head in the first period. Doan and Wisniewski fought in the second period. Still, they may be worth watching closely when they are on the ice together.
Coyotes forward Peter Mueller ended a season-long goal-scoring drought on Thursday vs. Chicago. Now it’s time to see if that first goal will trigger many goals from the gifted young player.
"Whenever you play Anaheim, you know they're going to play with a lot of emotion and physicality, and that makes for a fun game."