Phoenix Coyotes: Big Week Needed for Confidence, Playoff Hopes

Michael Jenkins@mikejenkins_99Contributor IIIApril 1, 2013

Phoenix Coyotes: Big Week Needed for Confidence, Playoff Hopes

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    First, the bad news. The Phoenix Coyotes lost three of their four games in what was a pivotal week to reassure their playoff aspirations. They have now dropped eight of their last nine and picked up only five points out of a possible 18 during that stretch. They have lost six one goal games during the dismal segment of games. Goaltender Mike Smith injured (whiplash) and while his return is expected to come shortly, the team has not said when that might occur.

    Now, the good news. The Coyotes are still only three points out of the Western Conference Playoffs as of today. They picked up four of those five points this past week (win vs. Nashville, overtime loss vs. Minnesota, shoot out loss vs. San Jose). They began to find the net after going through a brutal stretch of games with not scoring many goals. The Desert Dogs return home this week for three critical games. First, the welcome the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday followed by archival Detroit on Thursday. Ending the week are the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

    The Coyotes have to obtain at least four points out of this three-game home stand to maintain pace with those who are seeking to play for Lord Stanley's Cup.

Los Angeles- Tuesday- Home

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    The Coyotes gear up for battle again with the champs on Tuesday in Glendale.

    Phoenix lost back-to-back games against the Kings in Los Angeles in mid-March but won their last home game against the Kings in early March by a score of 5-2. In that game in Glendale, the Coyotes played wit a ferocious demeanor that translated into early scoring chances as they took control of the game.

    Since that game, the Coyotes have spiraled downward while the Kings have vaulted up the standings, now sitting in 5th place in the West with 43 points, nine clear of the Coyotes.

    The Kings continue to get healthy as they will look to build on a run of games in which they have won three of their last four. As always, the Coyotes will look to stop center Anze Kopitar who has terrorized the Coyotes throughout his career, but also has seven points in his last eight games.

Detroit- Thursday- Home

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    Detroit makes their way back to Glendale mid-week for a return date against the Coyotes. The Red Wings beat the Coyotes in Phoenix last Monday by a score of 3-2.The Wings currently sit in 7th place with 39 points, five adrift of Phoenix in the standings.

    For Detroit, it was the duo of Henrik Zetterberg (one assist) and Pavel Datsyuk (one goal, one assist) that did the damage as both continued to punish the Coyotes as they have done throughout their careers.

    The Coyotes received a solid performance in net from backup Jason LaBarbera, but the Coyotes spent too much time in the penalty box which gave the Red Wings the ability to unleash their potent power play. Detroit was able to score twice in five opportunities with the man advantage.

    If the Coyotes can stay out of the box and assert themselves physically within the rules, they can defeat the Wings and sleep comfortably knowing they have secured two points.

Colorado- Saturday- Home

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    What should be the easiest of the three games this week might find the Coyotes playing a desperate team as Colorado will be fighting for their playoff lives. The Avalanche sit dead last in the Western Conference with 28 points, nine out of the playoff picture. Every game counts for Colorado as they will try to scrap and claw their way back into contention.

    The Coyotes defeats the Avs 3-2 in their only meeting this season and this is the first of two remaining games on the docket between these two this season. Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly are two very talented offensive players for the Avs and Duchene has given the Coyotes fits throughout his young career.

    Frankly, these are must have points for the Coyotes and they should be very disappointed if they cannot secure both points against the Avs.