Game Time: Thu. Mar. 01/2012 @ 9:00pm EST
TV: SNET-W (HD)
Radio: XTRA Sports 910
Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer wrote: Coyotes look to carry February surge into March
LAST 10: Calgary 4-2-4; Phoenix 9-0-1
This will be the third of four meetings -- the Coyotes have won the previous two. In the most recent confrontation in Calgary on Feb. 23, Ray Whitney scored the lone goal in a shootout to give Phoenix a 4-3 triumph. Mike Smith made 21 saves in the victory.
The Coyotes closed out the month of February as the League's hottest team, going 11-0-1 and earning 23 out of a possible 24 points. Since Dave Tippett's arrival in Phoenix in 2009-10, the Coyotes are 23-7-2 in February. The recent surge has enabled the Coyotes to jump seven teams and into third place in the Western Conference over the last three weeks.
"We talked about making February a big month for us and it has been," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We've taken advantage of being at home a little bit more and having some time to rest. We know March is going to be a tough grind. We have a long way to go to the finish, and we have to make sure we take care of business in our next little homestand."
The Flames wrapped up a four-game homestand without a victory while earning just two points in a pair of shootout losses. The team dropped a 3-1 decision to the surging St. Louis Blues on Monday. Curtis Glencross scored the lone goal for Calgary, which is 11th in the Western Conference and three points behind eighth-seeded Dallas. The Flames have been outshot the last 11 straight games.
"We went through a spell here that we had some adversity we're dealing with and we have to handle it the right way and work ourselves through it," coach Brent Sutter said.
The Coyotes, who scored a 2-1 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, are 9-3-1 against Northwest Division foes this season. Ray Whitney's goal with 10:17 left in the third period tied the game and then Whitney and Mikkel Boedker connected in the shootout to give the Coyotes the victory over the Canucks. Goalie Mike Smith made 39 saves through 65 minutes before stopping Alexander Edler and Mason Raymond in the tiebreaker.
Smith has won his last 11 starts for Phoenix and was a perfect 11-0 in the month of February. He's allowed just 16 goals in those 11 games and stopped 315 of 331 shots (.952 save percentage) with two shutouts.
In Phoenix, Gilbert Brule has missed three games with a head injury and is questionable. Kyle Chipchura (wrist), Rostislav Klesla (upper body), Derek Morris (strained groin/personal) and David Schlemko (foot surgery) are all on injured reserve. … The Flames are without forwards Mikael Backlund (shoulder), Blair Jones (broken ankle), Lee Stempniak (ankle sprain) and David Moss (foot). Defenseman Chris Butler (thigh) is also sidelined.
Doan reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons last Saturday when he connected for the insurance goal in third period of a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. … The Flames have a 19-0-4 record when leading after two periods.
"That was a heck of a month by any team's standards," Whitney said following his team's shootout win over the Canucks on Tuesday. "We had to earn the (wins) both home and road. We beat some quality teams, and getting three out of four points against the team we played tonight is impressive. We realize that if we work hard we can compete with the big boys."
The Coyotes' only blemish on their current run was a 2-1 overtime loss to the Canucks on Feb. 13.
Coyotes Team Report:
The NHL's best team ran into the league's hottest Tuesday night. And even with an arena full of Canuck fans and the boost of three new players in the lineup, Vancouver couldn't put an end to the Phoenix Coyotes' roll -- which now heads into a second month.
The Coyotes collected 23 points over 24 days in February and capped it with a 2-1 overtime win against the only team to take a point off them all month long. Shooting from 52 to 75 points, Phoenix now has a two-point lead and a game in hand on the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that was fighting for the NHL's best record when the month started.
In just the last week alone, the Coyotes have rallied from 3-0 down to beat the Kings and 2-0 down to win at Calgary. On Tuesday, they spotted the streaking Canucks a 1-0 lead before goalie Mike Smith slammed the door and Ray Whitney, their 39-year-old wizard, went to work once again.
Whitney put back a Keith Yandle rebound with 10 minutes left in regulation to tie the score and then put the Coyotes up to stay in the shootout by beating Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider over the shoulder. Whitney has 19 points in his last 14 games, and it seems like all of them have been huge.
At the end it was 22-year-old Mikkel Boedker, the Coyotes' latest shootout "closer," who ended the game by racing in, making a deke and sliding the puck just under Schneider's stick.
"The last two were the same move, so I decided I should try something different," said Boedker, who now is three for four in the shootout. "Mike Smith has been unbelievable for us, we have great veteran leadership with Whitney and (Radim) Vrbata and (Shane) Doan and the younger guys are just following the older guys."
And while all this work had vaulted the Coyotes into the Pacific Division lead and made them the talk of the league, Calgary comes to town Thursday and there are still six weeks left in the season. Can the Coyotes keep it going in March?
"We have to recognize the things we've done well this month to be a good team," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We've set a standard for ourselves. We've got some momentum and we've rallied around it this month. When you do things right and everyone contributes the way they can, you have a good chance at success."
Flames Team Report:
So much for sweeping changes for a middling Flames team on the outside of the playoff picture, especially a few days after the general manager said he was disappointed in his club's veterans to the point he expected to jettison a few of them.
With his team just on the outside of the playoff race, close enough to still make it but in tough to jump into the top eight, GM Jay Feaster made no changes at the trade deadline.
"It's OK to be emotional. At least, I think it's OK to be emotional," Feaster said. "The last thing you want to do is move players based on emotion. That's why we never make decisions on players after a game. You get too wound up. I hope our fans feel good about the fact there is a deliberate process that goes on. If there was a situation where we could have set ourselves up for the future and the rest of the season, we would have done that. There was nothing that was going to do that."
The Flames wisely didn't over-pay for any rental players in what was a seller's market, but also failed to trade away any players who wouldn't be part of the club beyond this campaign, thus failing to net some assets -- be it draft picks or prospects -- in return.
"If people were throwing first-round picks at us, we would have had different conversations," Feaster said about that scenario.
Still, it's not like the Flames couldn't have used some middle-round draft choices. After all, this is a team which has no second-round picks in the next two drafts.
The Flames immediately responded to that faith in them by falling 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues, and now have 19 games to prove Feaster made the right decision, starting with Thursday's clash at the Phoenix Coyotes.