After a discouraging start to their road trip, the Phoenix Coyotes return home in high spirits. Their offense appears to have found its rhythm and facing the defensively challenged Ottawa Senators should only help.
The Coyotes go for a fourth straight win Tuesday night while the Senators wrap up a season-opening six-game road trip trying to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat.
Phoenix’s trip got off to an inauspicious start with losses to San Jose and the New York Islanders by a combined score of 10-2.
“It was a morgue around here – nobody was happy, everybody was miserable,” winger Rob Klinkhammer said.
The mood has certainly changed after the Coyotes (4-2-0) outscored Detroit, Philadelphia and Carolina 11-6 for three straight wins.
“We’ve stabilized our game, for sure,” coach Dave Tippett told the team’s official website. “When you go on the road for five games, your backs are against the wall. Winning three out of five road games is going in the right direction. Hopefully we can go home and keep playing the right way.”
Phoenix’s penalty kill has been a big part of the turnaround, stopping 14 of 15 after killing six of 10 in the losses.
Finally getting some production from first-line forwards Shane Doan and Klinkhammer also has helped.
Doan, who was tied for the team lead with 13 goals last season, had gone pointless in his first five contests before notching a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Hurricanes. Klinkhammer registered his first two goals after entering with one assist.
“At some point, you have to start helping,” Doan said.
Doan and company could be poised for more scoring opportunities considering how things have been going for the Senators (1-2-2).
After surrendering 50 shots in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to San Jose, Ottawa allowed a franchise-record 56 in a 4-1 defeat to Anaheim the following night.
“It’s a little bit worse,” coach Paul MacLean said. “It is two nights in a row. You give up over 50 shots, you hang your goalie out right from the start of the game. We’re not very good. We need to go back to square one and find something to hang our hat on. Right now the only thing we have is goaltenders, and we make them work too hard.”
Craig Anderson allowed two goals on the Ducks’ first nine shots before Robin Lehner replaced him 4:06 into the first period. Lehner made his season debut against the Sharks, and already has faced 97 shots.
Anderson has a 4.63 goals-against average in losing his last three starts, and has lost his last six games to the Coyotes with a 2.81 GAA.
Phoenix’s Mike Smith has a 2.27 GAA in winning his last three starts versus Ottawa.
Smith stopped 32 shots and Doan had a goal in the Coyotes’ last game against the Senators, a 3-2 home win Jan. 24, 2012.
One of the few bright spots for Ottawa on Sunday was Bobby Ryan scoring his 150th career goal in his first game back in Anaheim since the Ducks traded the high-scoring forward over the summer. Ryan has scored in three straight games, but only has one goal in his last seven contests in Phoenix.
Center Jeff Halpern is expected to make his debut after signing a one-year contract with the Coyotes on Saturday.