Calgary Flames vs Phoenix Coyotes: Birthday Bash Preview

Derrick LightfootContributor IMarch 31, 2010

WASHINGTON - MARCH 28:  Miikka Kiprusoff #34 of the Calgary Flames makes a save against Eric Belanger #18 of the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on March 28, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Most of my articles are of the opinion variety, but I see this game as a special occasion. I'm sure most of you don't know (nor care) it is my birthday today, and to celebrate a few friends and I will take in this game. Most importantly, it will give me a chance to get some opinions off my chest about one of the best (and over hyped lately) stories in the NHL—the emergence of the Phoenix Coyotes.

One thing that I do not understand is why it took so long for the Coyotes to get this publicity. Most pegged them as basement dwellers, and for the most of the year they hovered around that No. 5 spot. There were some rustlings about how well they were doing, but the second they jumped the Sharks for the division lead, you couldn't turn on a TV or open a sports page without being bombarded about the amazing Coyotes.

At least they're getting some recognition and playoff revenue—they need it.

I would also like to commend them on one hell of a deadline day. Before the deadline day I looked at that roster and didn't really see a overly talented team, but importantly they didn't really have a lot of vets.

Now, I usually hate the lack of playoff experience argument, but after watching the Penguins grow and work to eventually get that cup, I am a semi-believer. Of course, the Hawks did it last year with not a ton of postseason experience, but I really didn't see the 'Yotes making a big run.

Adding two vets like Morris and Schneider will always help in a lengthy run to the cup. We all knew the talent of Wolski, and he is showing Glendale just what he can do. And then we have Lee Stempniak, who was an excellent gamble by Phoenix. He has been on fire, and I'm sure Leafs fans are wondering where this Stempniak was all season.

If Bryzgalov can be as solid as he has been all year (one of the greatest waiver pick-ups of all time?), the 'Yotes can make a Cinderella run to the cup (if you can call it Cinderella at this point)

Flames vs Coyotes

The Flames will be coming off an impressive 5-3 win over the league leading Caps. They almost blew a four goal, first period lead but they were able to hang on. At this point, they most likely will have to run the table to make the postseason, unless the Avalanche go on a big skid (Flames have a game against the Avalanche remaining).

The Coyotes will be coming off a game against the Canucks today. I believe Bryzgalov will start this one, so the Flames could be facing backup 'tender LaBarbera, which could be very likely as the Coyotes have already clinched a playoff berth, but it's to be seen if they want to go all out to try and pip the Sharks for the Pacific lead (though the Sharks would have to play quite poorly for this to happen).

No matter the starter, the Flames should be in tough against a Phoenix team that has been on fire (8-1-1 in their last 10).

I hope and expect Kipper to get the start, and if he does he will give the Flames a chance to win the game (as he does most nights). It will be down to the boys in front of him to put pucks in the net but also not let him out to dry.

Injuries for Phoenix include Kurt Sauer and Scottie Upshall. Robert Lang is also out indefinitely.

For the Flames, Langkow is out, and there is a chance Glencross will be unavailable.

I think the Flames will come out guns blazing or fall flat on their face from the beginning. Phoenix didn't really look too hot against the Canucks, Bryzgalov included.

I don't want to jinx it, but I think this one ends up Flames 3-2 Coyotes (possibly in a shootout).