Tonight the New York Rangers host the Phoenix Coyotes at Madison Square Garden; the puck drops at 7:00pm. ET
The Coyotes have been on a good run recently, much like the Rangers. With a 34-26-2 record, the Coyotes are fourth in the Pacific Division and are holding the final “Wild Card” slot of the Western Conference. Mike Smith will be in net tonight for the Coyotes in his 12th straight start. In his last 10 games, Smith has three losses and one shut out. The most recent loss was from an empty net goal against the Boston Bruins. Smith’s season totals are a .915 save percentage and 2.65 goals against average. Since 1 February, Smith’s totals are 1.86 goals against average and a .937 save percentage.
Statistically, the Coyotes are led in points by Keith Yandle’s 42 assists for 50 points and is on a 15 game 15 point streak that includes two goals. Radim Vrbata has 40 goals for 48 points on the season and, former Washington Capital, Mike Ribeiro has 15 goals for 45 points. The Coyotes have several stand out names on their roster, Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal have each played on 58 games but have 41 and 39 points respectively. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has 12 goals for 39 points this season with two goals for five points in the last six games. Ekman-Larsson may have been on the bad side of team Sweden’s coach but that is not the case here in the NHL. Martin Erat was dealt to the Coyotes as a trade deadline maneuver so look for him to be a familiar face from the east. Paul Bissonette doesn’t add a whole lot in points, but half of his goals are the first goal scored on Ryan Miller after his trade to the St. Louis Blues.
Hanzal leads the team with 71 penalties in minutes; Ribeiro and Bissonette are close behind with 52 and 49 repsectively. The Coyotes have seven players with over 100 hits this season. Hanzal leads with 181 hits, followed by Rob Klinkhammer with 146, Michael Stone has 135, Lauri Korpikoski has 120, Ekman-Larsson has 116, Doan has 114, and David Moss has 109 hits. These guys play a physical game and allow their point scorers to remain free and dangerous. Zbynek Michalek has 150 blocked shots this season in only 49 games; he is the second goalie on the ice for the Coyotes.
If the Rangers want to win this game they have to stay out of the box, as always, and get on the power play. Mike Smith is a man on a mission since his return from the Olympics and the Rangers have to play the way they have in the last two games if they want to get the puck past him. The “Butt Goal” blunder from a few months ago would be a welcome event at Madison Square Garden Tonight.
Want an early jump on New York Rangers playoff tickets? Check out TiqIQ.com