Coyotes play host to Flames, struggling Iginla

Coyotes welcome Flames as criticism, speculation about struggling Iginla heats up.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – If it seems too early to talk about the NHL’s April 3 trade deadline, that’s because it is. The season just opened one month ago, and yet the Coyotes will be one-third of the way through their schedule after they host the Flames on Monday at Arena.

There are a number of question marks surrounding this season’s trade deadline, beginning with this one: Will anyone want to move players? Because the season is so short and teams will be so tightly packed in the standings after only about 36 games, the vast majority may be leery of dealing significant pieces when they still believe they are in the hunt.

But there were will be a few teams looking to deal from a position of depth (will Vancouver deal one of its goaltenders?), and there may a be a couple teams that fall so far out of the race that it will obviously be time to look to the future.

The Flames could be one of those teams, and captain Jarome Iginla is as attractive a trade option as you’ll find out there given his skills, his size, his physical prowess and his leadership qualities, although his salary and rent-a-player status would make him unrealistic for a team such as the Coyotes.

Iginla is a Calgary lifer, but he’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $7 million, after which he will become an unrestricted free agent. Iginla has a no-movement clause in his contract, meaning he cannot be traded, waived, or sent down to the minors without his approval.

But if the Flames do fall out of the race, will he accept a deal if a contender comes calling? Will he tire of the criticism he’s receiving for a lack of production and a perceived (though highly unlikely) decline in effort? At age 35, Iginla is entering the final stage of his career, making this one of the most intriguing storylines to watch as the season progresses.


26.5, 72.3: Those are the percentages of Calgary’s power play and penalty-killing units, suggesting that tonight’s game could be all about which team can capitalize on special teams. The Flames' power play is ranked fourth in the NHL while its penalty-killing unit is the third-worst. Former Coyote Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross lead the team with three power-play goals each.

Balance: Like the Coyotes, Calgary does not have a single player in the NHL’s top 40 in points. Alex Tanguay leads the Flames with four goals and 12 points in 13 games. Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes with four goals and 12 points in 15 games. But both teams have eight players with at least three goals, suggesting good balance, although the Coyotes had struggled to score before a five-goal outburst against the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Calgary is eighth in the league at three goals per game while Phoenix has fallen to 17th at 2.6.

1: That’s how many goals Iginla has through 13 games, leading to fan and media questioning of his declining abilities and even his effort. "I don't honestly put too much stock in it,” he told the Calgary Herald. “You do get a thicker skin playing here. Every year there's different articles about tough stretches, and we all get scrutinized. I was already trying to find ways to be better. Believe me, this wasn't the first time. You do get used to different things.''


Backup plan:
With goalie Miikka Kiprusoff injured, the Flames played Joey MacDonald on Sunday night in Dallas. They also recalled Danny Taylor, who will make his first career start against the Coyotes.

Reunion: Coyotes forward David Moss sent the first six seasons of his career in Calgary after the Flames drafted him in the seventh round (220th overall) in 2001.

Dazzling on the draw: Among players with at least 200 face-offs this season, the Coyotes' Antoine Vermette ranks fifth in the NHL, having won 155 of 264 draws (58.7 percent). Only Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Nashville’s Paul Gaustad, Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews have fared better. All four are winning more than 60 percent of their draws.

For the Coyotes, D David Schlemko (shoulder) and Derek Morris (lower body) are out. F Radim Vrbata (lower body) and F Matthew Lombardi (shoulder) are day to day. Lombardi could return to the lineup tonight; if not, he’ll join the team on its Canadian road trip this weekend. For the Flames, G Miikka Kiprusoff (lower body), is day to day, F Sven Baertschi (hip) is week to week, and F Mikael Backlund (lower body), F Paul Byron (broken hand) and F Lance Bouma (knee) are out indefinitely.

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