Found January 30, 2012 on Fox Sports Arizona:
While pondering the Coyotes stretch run, it seemed appropriate that the iPod shuffled to Coldplays "Everythings Not Lost." Phoenix emerges from the 2012 All-Star break in 12th place in the Western Conference, seven points off last seasons pace and six spots behind its sixth-place standing at this time last year. The Coyotes are still without an owner, still without a top-line center and still looking for a legitimate home-ice advantage from their fans. But those three issues are nothing new, and the first is manageable. Despite a road-heavy schedule, the Coyotes are just three points behind Minnesota in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot, and their goal differential (minus-four) -- a good past predictor of whether teams make the playoffs -- is better than any of the five teams currently battling for that last spot in the West. With money to spend in his budget, general manager Don Maloney should be able to add some scoring punch up front, even if he finds it impossible to land that prized No. 1 center without mortgaging the future. Phoenix will play 18 of its final 32 games at Jobing.com Arena. Without the taxing road trips that have left the team exhausted when it reaches home ice, the Coyotes should be able to establish a little more home dominance. Finally, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sparked renewed hope when he revealed at the All-Star Game that there is a third party now interested in purchasing the Coyotes. Sure, weve heard such talk before, but its better than a gloomy forecast, no? As coach Dave Tippett said following the teams sloppy win over Ottawa in the last game before the break, there is plenty of work to be done. Here are our top three areas in which the Coyotes must continue to excel along with three things they must do better if they are to secure a third consecutive postseason berth. KEEP IT UP Goalie Mike Smiths play: The offseason free-agent signing suffered a lull near the end of 2011, but hes resumed his stellar play of late and now sits 10th in the NHL in save percentage (.922) with a 2.44 goals-against average. Smith has allowed 23 goals in his last 10 games (six in one game) while stopping 291 of 314 shots (92.7 percent). By the way, Ilya Bryzgalovs numbers last season at the break looked like this: 2.64 goals-against average, .916 save percentage. We like to say we told you so, so we just did. Penalty-killing prowess: Like Smith, the PK suffered a lull, but its now back to being one of the NHLs elite units. The Phoenix penalty kill ranks ninth in the league at 84.2 percent. Special teams are magnified in the playoffs, and without a strong power play, the Coyotes have to get one half of the equation right. Radim Vrbatas breakout season: Have we mentioned that the Coyotes dont have much scoring punch? They are on pace to have just three 20-goal scorers, pending any trade-deadline deals. Of course, they only had one last season, but they had eight with 16 or more. That wont happen this season. Its a lot of pressure to place on Vrbata, and other teams will probably be clamping down on him, but career numbers sure would help the cause. STEP IT UP The power play: Following an 0-for-5 performance on the power play on Jan. 12 in Phoenix, Detroit coach Mike Babcock remarked how awful the Red Wings power play had been over the past month. Nothings happening, Babcock growled. The Wings' version of nothing still looked more threatening than the Coyotes' version. Phoenix is 29th out of 30 teams, converting at a 12.8 percent clip with the man advantage. Its easy to say the Coyotes have to be better -- that they have to get more pucks to the net and move the puck faster -- but without a play-making center or an immoveable force to park in the slot, its hard to imagine this unit improving much. If Maloney cant get that No. 1 center hes long coveted, he might look at finding a piece to help this struggling unit. Home-ice play: Phoenix is 10-9-4 at Jobing.com Arena. Last season, the Coyotes were 10-9-5 at the break. Scary, huh? The Coyotes went 11-4-2 in their last 17 games at home last season. A similar feat this season should be sufficient for a playoff spot. Be better in tight games: The perception has been that the Coyotes did a better job last season of getting to overtime and at least earning a point than they are doing this year. Thats not really the case. Phoenix lost a league-high 13 games in overtime or a shootout last season. With eight OT or SO losses through 50 games, theyre on pace to achieve that number again. They also won seven games in overtime or shootout last year. This year, they have three such wins, so theyll likely fall a point or two short of last seasons pace. Where the Coyotes have really struggled is in one-goal games. They had lost 10 straight before beating Ottawa just before the break and are 8-17 in one-goal games this season. Last season, they were 16-16 in such games. The good news? Phoenix was 9-14 in one-goal games before the All-Star break last season, then went 7-2 down the stretch. Just like last seasons late home-ice push, a similar streak in one-goal games could get the Coyotes to the postseason.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Trade Deadline Options: Shane Doan

In our latest installment of “Trade Deadline Options”, the Ranger Nation crew takes a look at Phoenix Coyotes forward Shane Doan. Shane Doan – Forward Christopher Decker (@HockeyGuy_Chris) Pro’s:  At 35 years old, Shane Doan is still putting up solid numbers for a veteran. To add to his scoring touch, Doan has the size to win [...]

Yandle goes to All-Star game: Part 1

Part 2: Keith Yandle's All-Star Game video diary

Coyotes Recall Summers from AHL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, January 30, 2012 GLENDALE, ARIZONA – Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney announced today that the Coyotes have recalled defenseman Chris Summers from the Portland Pirates, the Coyotes American Hocke...

Tuesday on FOX Sports Arizona: Coyotes vs. Ducks, 7 p.m.

The Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes both sit on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. While the Ducks - despite a terrific three-plus weeks - have a ways to go if they hope to climb their way back into the postseason race, the Coyotes are one of a handful of teams vying for the West's last two playoff slots. With both teams looking to get off to strong starts...

Goalie Mike Smith keeping Phoenix Coyotes in mix

Notes: The play of Smith is one of the big reasons the Coyotes remain in a position to challenge for playoff spot.

NHL still intent on keeping Coyotes in Phoenix

 The NHL is still trying to keep the Phoenix Coyotes from moving out of Glendale, Arizona while fans in Quebec, Canada are hoping the league isn’t successful. Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, said the league wants to sell the franchise to somebody who’s willing to keep the club where it is and he’s hoping a deal can be made before the current season is over.  He revealed...

Ducks' big 2nd period too much for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Andrew Cogliano scored three straight goals in the second period and the Anaheim Ducks opened the second half of the season with a 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night. Phoenix had the jump in the first period, and Cogliano took it away quickly in the second, notching his first career hat trick in a 7-minute span. His first came after Phoenix...

Coyotes rejuvenated for second half of NHL season

Every team welcomed the five-day NHL All-Star break, but the Phoenix Coyotes probably embraced it more than any other.

Ducks-Coyotes Preview

The Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes both sit on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. While the Ducks - despite a terrific three-plus weeks - have a ways to go if they hope to climb their way back into the postseason race, the Coyotes are one of a handful of teams vying for the West's last two playoff slots. With both teams looking to get off to strong starts...

Anaheim Ducks (18-23-7) at Phoenix Coyotes (22-20-8), 9 p.m. (ET)

The Phoenix Coyotes hope their victory prior to the All- Star break can get them headed in the right direction, while the Anaheim Ducks will try to avoid falling back into a rut that plagued a good portion of their first half.

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Anaheim Ducks - game updates

7 p.m.: The Coyotes look to start the second half of the season with a victory. Follow our updates!
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.