Coyotes host Flames to open 5-game homestand

December 20, 2016

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Coyotes and Calgary Flames have met twice so far this season, and the results have pretty much typified the Coyotes' season.

The Flames prevailed in overtime in both games by 2-1 scores. It's been that kind of season for the Coyotes -- who have gotten exceptional goaltending from Mike Smith to hang close to their opponents but haven't had the offensive firepower to convert enough of those close games into victories.

The third of five meetings between the two teams is Monday night at Gila River Arena. The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona and FOX Sports GO, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Arizona is coming off a four-game road trip on which it went 2-2 but suffered lopsided losses to Pittsburgh (7-0) and Minnesota (4-1). The latter ended the team's two-game winning streak and stymied a third attempt at the team's first three-game winning streak this season.

This is the first of five consecutive games on home ice for Arizona (11-15-5). The Coyotes are 6-5-2 at Gila River Arena and have played fewer games on home ice than any team in the Western Conference.

"To get home and have a day in between each game, we're finally going to get a couple days to practice, which we haven't practiced it seems like in a month," coach Dave Tippett said after Monday's morning skate. "To get home, and just hopefully play well before the Christmas break here, I think it's something everyone's looking forward to."

The Coyotes' minus-7.3 shot differential is the worst in the league, but Tippett wasn't as concerned with that stat as he was with his team's inability to win individual battles in previous games.

"There's a lot of situations where we got beat one-on-one, and we didn't beat anybody one-on-one," Tippett said. "That's, a lot of times, what the game comes down to."

Smith ranks 10th in the NHL in save percentage (.930) despite playing behind a team that allows a league-high 35.6 shots per game.

"Guys are trying, and we want to win in every game we're involved in," said Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy, who returned to the lineup on Saturday at Minnesota after a three-game absence with an upper-body injury. "Sometimes it's hard to get going so that we can keep pushing and not let things pile up on us."

Calgary has lost two in a row -- the most recent a 2-0 setback on Friday to Columbus, which now has an eight game winning streak.

"It's obvious that they're not doing it just to us," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan told the Calgary Herald. "They're doing it to a lot of teams in the National Hockey League, but we should have been prepared to elevate our game and we weren't."

Calgary (16-15-2) had won six in a row prior to its current losing streak and is 11-5-1 over its last 17 games to get back into contention following a 5-10-1 start.

"It's time to stop it where it is," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "The last two games haven't been near good enough. We've been hurting ourselves with some big mistakes.

"We might have been getting away with a few things here and there when you're on a winning streak, but then you lose a few games and goals go in your net, you notice those more."

The Flames are healthy other than defenseman Ladislav Smid, who is out for the season while rehabbing a neck injury. But there is mild concern that goalie Chad Johnson has allowed four goals in back-to-back starts (he was pulled in one) after carrying the team in its climb back above .500.

The Flames are expected to go back to Brian Elliott, whom they signed this summer as a free agent to become their No. 1 goalie.

Johnny Gaudreau has totaled 10 points in six games since returning from a broken finger that sidelined him for 10 games. He leads the Flames with 21 points. Sean Monahan had a team-high 10 goals.

Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes with eight goals and 20 points.

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