By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes will host the Dallas Stars tonight in a rare Friday night game at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Tonight's game will be the second between Phoenix and Dallas this season. The first time around, the big story was Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett beating his former team, 3-2, on Nov. 14. This time around, the significance will be the outcome’s effect on the Pacific Division standings.
The Coyotes (13-11-1) enter the game having slipped to fourth place in the division with 27 points. Dallas (11-6-7) is two points ahead in third place.
Ilya Bryzgalov has started five games in a row and likely will get his sixth against point machine Brad Richards, future Hall-of-Famer Mike Modano and the rest of the Stars. Bryzgalov’s play is a big reason why the Coyotes rank fourth in the NHL with a 2.44 goals-against average.
Scoring goals has been challenging for Phoenix the past few games. Defenseman Keith Yandle has netted two of the team’s past three goals while forwards Peter Mueller, Petr Prucha and Taylor Pyatt, to name a few, have struggled to light the lamp. The aforementioned trio has combined for just four goals this season.
“We’re not creating enough and when we do create stuff there’s just very little finish in our game tight now,” Tippett said. “… Somebody has to chip in every night. If you look at our "d" … the scoring we’ve had from our “d” has been respectable. We need some forwards to chip in with some goals. We’ve got some guys who are getting opportunities. They just need to capitalize.”
Dallas is 3-1-1 in its past five games., including a 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis on Wednesday.
Unlike previous seasons, the Stars have struggled to win shootouts in 2009-10. They have earned just one shootout win in six tries.
"It's a big part of the game and we do put emphasis on it in practice,'' Stars forward James Neal told reporters after Wednesday’s loss. “We've got to bear down and find a way to win that extra point. It's so big.”
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has three goals and three assists in his past nine games, and has played 29 shifts or more in each of those games.
Stars center Brad Richards has notched 10 points in the past five games. Nine of those points have been assists, and four of those helpers came in one game – Nov. 21 vs. New Jersey.
The Coyotes haven't scored more than three goals in a game since Oct. 28 - a span of 14 games. Phoenix's record in those games is 6-7-1.
The Coyotes recalled forward Mikkel Boedker from their top affiliate in the American Hockey League on Friday. Boedker likely will play tonight, on a line with center Robert Lang and winger Peter Mueller.
The Stars rely heavily on goalie Marty Turco, but a Dallas-based report suggests backup Alex Auld could get the start. Auld posted a 3-6-0 record for Phoenix in 2007-08.
“I play the way I play and I don’t think I’m going to change anything now. Injuries happen… Hopefully it won’t happen again.”