Tonight the San Jose Sharks will take on the Phoenix Coyotes for their second game of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know about the ‘Yotes before the contest.
Game Number: 2
Opponent: Phoenix Coyotes
Opponent Record (Last 10): 1-0-0
Offense: Hot (4 G in last game)
Defense: Hot (1 g allowed last game)
Power Play: Hot (33% conversion rate)
Penalty Kill: Cold (75%)
Players to Watch
The Coyotes don’t posses many household names for the average hockey fan, but they have several entertaining and talented players worth keeping an eye on. Of course, Shane Doan is and has been the face of the franchise since 1995 and he is the team’s spiritual leader both on and off the ice.
He leads the way with his physical and abrasive style of play, and while he isn’t the 70-point guy that he used to be, Doan is still capable of doing plenty of damage in the offensive zone.
There are several underrated players on this Phoenix squad, and none more so than Radim Vrbata. After playing for four different teams across a nine-year span, he’s settled in nicely in the desert. Vrbata posted a hat trick in the first game of the season and is currently (comically?) the NHL’s leading goal scorer.
As always, the Coyotes have a lot of talent on the blue line. If Keith Yandle was playing just about anywhere else he’d be a fan favorite and a well-known player. He’s in Phoenix though, so his exposure isn’t what it should be. Don’t let that fool you though—this 27 year-old Boston native can bring it from the back end.
He scored 30 points in 48 games last season and is poised for a massive year.
Yandle isn’t alone as an offensive force though, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson is also capable of putting up a boatload of points.
Keep an eye out for Mikkel Boedker, who has always been supremely talented but has never really put it all together. He’s capable of making some special things happen out on the ice though.
This is where things truly get interesting for Phoenix. Dave Tippett has always run a tight, goalie-friendly ship and Mike Smith truly has been the beneficiary since heading to the Coyotes for the 2011-12 season. He’s locked into a long term deal now , so it will be interesting to see how he responds as the season progresses.
He only allowed one goal against the New York Rangers in Phoenix’s season opener, making 23 saves in the process.
For the Sharks to have success against him, they’ll need to do what they did during the latter parts of the game against the Vancouver Canucks: Get in his kitchen. They need to get bodies to the net and make him uncomfortable. He won’t like it. Not one bit.