The Coyotes' backs are up against the wall as they play four times this week and seek to get back into a top eight position in the Western Conferencen
The Phoenix Coyotes have lost five straight games. In a regular season, there would be time to rebound from a losing streak like this. In a shortened season, a five-game losing streak could be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting them out.
Losing to the Los Angeles Kings twice and Vancouver during last week's dismal display put the Coyotes on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. As of today, the Coyotes sit in 12th place in the Western Conference, three points out of the 8th and final playoff position.
Phoenix also fell to 13-14-2 for the season, one game under .500 and fearing that any continuation of this losing streak could cause serious damage to their playoff aspirations.
Luckily for the Coyotes, if they can put together a solid week of hockey, they can get right back in the hunt as they play four games against teams that are smack dab in the middle of the playoff race.
Detroit (seventh place in Western Conference) comes to town on Tuesday, before the Desert Dogs embark on a three game road trip to complete the week against Minnesota (third place), Nashville (10th place) and San Jose (ninth place).
If the Coyotes can put together some wins this week, they could find themselves back into the top eight spots in the conference. But the Coyotes will need to play in a more consistent fashion for the losing streak to be snapped and to fight their way back into the top eight spots.
Pavel Datsyuk brings his bag of tricks to Jobing.com Arena on Monday to take on the Coyotes
Monday will mark the first of three meeting this season between these Western Conference rivals. The history between Detroit and Phoenix may not mean a lot to Red Wings fans, but they are one of, if not the most hated, of all NHL teams by Phoenix fans.
This stems from the fact that the Red Wings have eliminated the Coyotes from the playoffs in two of the last three seasons in which the Coyotes made the postseason.
Detroit sits in seventh place in the Western Conference, five points adrift of the Coyotes. The Red Wings have won three of their last four games and will be in the midst of a West Coast road trip when the play in Phoenix on Monday. They will also be playing in a back-to-back game as they play in Anaheim on Sunday night.
The Wings have been winning with defense this season as they are ranked ninth in the league in goals allowed. Goaltender Jimmy Howard has played fairly well for Detroit this season, especially lately after an average start to the season.
The old guard of center Pavel Datsyuk (10 goals, 23 assists) and winger Henrik Zetterberg (8 goals, 23 assists) lead the Red Wings in scoring, and both have been especially unkind to Phoenix over their careers.
Datsuyk has scored an amazing 55 points in 38 career games against the Desert Dogs, 21 while on the deadly Red Wings power play. Zetterberg has scored 41 points in 34 games against Phoenix and will look to add to that in the Valley of the Sun on Monday night.
If the Coyotes execute this four-point plan, they can walk away with points Monday night. Control Datsyuk and Zetterberg, use the rest they have had over the past three days to their advantage late in the game against a team coming off of a back-to-back, get a big game out of goalie Mike Smith and win the physical play on the boards.
The Red Wings are only a .500 team on the road this season (6-6-2), and if the 'Yotes play well from the opening whistle, there is no reason why they can't capture all the points on Monday evening.
Yeah, I know. A lot easier said than done.
The 'Yotes travel to St. Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday for a date with the talented and skilled Ryan Suter and the Minnesota Wild
This is a huge game against the Wild, one in which the Coyotes have to take advantage of their opportunities. The two teams have split their season series (both games at Phoenix). The Coyotes and the Wild play similar styles as both try to assert their physicality and dominate the puck along the boards to get their cycle going.
Minnesota is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning five straight, and will look to take it to the Coyotes at the XCel Energy Center on Wednesday. The Wild are also one of the better teams at home in the NHL (11-3-1).
Goaltender Nicklas Backstrom has started the last ten games in net for the Wild, going 8-2 and posting a goals against average of 1.90 and a save percentage of .940 over that stretch. He is a huge reason as to why the Wild are where they stand right now.
The offense has picked it up as well, scoring an average of 3.7 goals a game over those 10 games. Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Devin Setoguchi have all played well as of late and will be the three guys to keep an eye on during the game on Wednesday night.
Ryan Suter holds down the back end for Minnesota and is turning out to be the game-changing defenseman that the Wild thought they were getting when they shelled out close to a $100 million for his services this offseason.
The uber-skilled Pekka Rinne will be waiting with legs closed for the Coyotes to arrive in Nashville on Thursday
Phoenix travels to Nashville on Thursday for the second of back-to-back games against Western Conference rivals. The teams have split their games this season, with both teams registering shutouts in their home games.
Nashville has won two straight games after enduring a four-game losing streak of their own and is looking to reassert themselves and get back into playoff position.
Nashville is a defensively oriented team that uses a balanced scoring attack to put goals on the board. If there was a team in the league that most closely resembles the Coyotes, it is Nashville in my opinion.
The Coyotes will have to keep center Colin Wilson and speedy winger Martin Erat under wraps by paying extra attention to their line changes so that the Preds cannot take advantage of odd-man rushes.
The Preds ranks 11th in the league in goals against, but if they have one defensive weakness, it is that they struggle on the penalty kill (29th). If the Coyotes can put the Predators in situations where they lose their cool and can cause some penalties, they could take advantage of a team that has struggled in those situations.
Unfortunately for Phoenix, Nashville's best player is their best penalty killer, goalie Pekka Rinne.
Although the Coyotes have had some success against the gargantuan Finnish netminder in recent years, he can also pitch a shutout on any night that he laces them up. The Coyotes will have to get traffic in front of him all night if they plan on getting some points in the Music City.
Big Joe Thornton always presents problems for Phoenix whenever the Sharks and the Coyotes get together as they will on Saturday night in San Jose
The Coyotes and Sharks will hook up for the third time this season Saturday night in San Jose. The two team split their games this season, with the Coyotes winning in a tremendous 1-0 shootout victory in the Shark Tank the last time they met.
The Coyotes will need to put in that same effort to be able to secure points in San Jose, a notoriously tough place to play and one which has given the Coyotes nightmares in recent years.
The Coyotes have won two of their last five games over the past two years at the Shark Tank and hope to use a tough road style mentality to secure more points at the end of this rugged week of hockey.
Patrick Marleau has been a particular thorn in the Coyotes side over the years, amassing 63 points in 85 games against the Desert Dogs. He leads San Jose with 15 goals this season. Joe Thornton has also made a habit of beating up Phoenix, with 65 points in 59 career games against the 'Yotes. He leads San Jose with 28 points this season.
One thing working in Phoenix's favor is that the Sharks are ranked dead last in goals scored. The wheels have fallen off San Jose's offensive production this year, and they have lost four of their last six games. Whichever team can seem to find some offense in San Jose on Saturday night seems to have a great chance to bank some pivotal points in the playoff race.