NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Monday, November 21st
(All times Eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (10-5-3) at Washington Capitals (10-7-1), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Goaltender Mike Smith has been a key catalyst to Phoenix's
hot start this season. The Coyotes hope that a trip to Washington won't serve
as an inhibitor to his solid play.
The Coyotes look to close out a five-game road trip with another victory while
handing the struggling Capitals a fifth loss in a row for the first time in
nearly a year.
Phoenix finds itself just two points behind first-place San Jose in the
Pacific Division thanks to a 4-1-1 record over its past six games. The Coyotes
have won three times already on their swing and bounced back from a loss in
Philadelphia last Thursday to post a 4-3 victory at Buffalo two nights later.
Paul Bissonnette picked a great time for his first goal of the season, scoring
66 seconds after Radim Vrbata for the game-winning goal. Vrbata's first goal
had tied the game and he sealed the victory with an empty-net tally.
Vrbata leads the Coyotes with eight goals on the year and has 12 points over
his last 10 games.
Shane Doan also scored, notching the 750th point of his NHL career, as the
Coyotes improved to 6-2-1 as the road team this season and 9-0-3 when scoring
the first goal.
"We didn't play exactly the way we wanted, but we found a way to win and found
ways to score goals," Doan said. "We got to the net on a couple of rebounds
and that really was the difference."
Smith made 43 saves to improve to 9-3-3 with a 2.16 goals-against average and
.936 save percentage this year. Brought in to help replace former starter Ilya
Bryzgalov, Smith's save percentage is fourth-best in the league.
Head coach Dave Tippett may entertain the idea of going with backup Jason
LaBarbera given Smith's history with the Capitals. As a former Lightning
goaltender, Smith is 0-6-0 with a 5.01 GAA and .843 save percentage lifetime
versus the Capitals.
Smith may be catching Washington at a good time. The Capitals have lost a
season-high four straight and are coming off a winless three-game road trip in
which they were outscored 14-3. The swing marked the first time Washington was
held to a goal or less in three straight games since Dec. 27-31, 2003.
Washington was routed in Toronto on Saturday by a 7-1 margin. Tomas Vokoun
started in net and allowed four goals on 18 shots before getting pulled in the
second period. Michal Neuvirth stopped eight of the 11 pucks fired his way in
Brooks Laich notched the Capitals' lone goal.
"We made too many mistakes out there tonight," said Laich. "And give them
credit, they pounced on most of the mistakes we made. That's what good teams
Washington is 6-1-1 at home and would love to see Alex Ovechkin get going
tonight. Ovechkin has not posted a single point over the Caps' four-game
losing streak, though head coach Bruce Boudreau says his sniper is still
"We all look at those numbers, and they're out there, but I don't know how
many chances he had at points [Saturday night. If they had of bounced the
right way he could have had five," said Boudreau, who is still one win shy of
200 in his coaching career.
"Yeah we look at the numbers and the numbers aren't good ... but what we
always tell the players is start really worrying when you're not getting
Ovechkin has three goals and six points in five career games versus the
Coyotes, who won a 3-2 decision at home over the Capitals in the lone meeting
between the clubs last year.
Phoenix has won five of the past seven encounters overall and had won five in
a row at Washington until a 4-2 loss there on Jan. 23, 2010.
11/21 10:41:04 ET