Coyotes looking for more from top players as they host Flames

BY foxsports • December 14, 2016

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Calgary Flames are on a four-game winning streak, and they won seven of their past 10 (7-2-1).

The Arizona Coyotes are on a five-game losing streak, and they dropped 10 of their past 13 (3-6-4).

The two teams on divergent paths meet up tonight at Gila River Arena. The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona and FOX Sports GO, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Why the disparity in play? Sometimes, the simplest explanation is the best.

"For me, it's been three things," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Wednesday as the team took part in an off-ice workout at Gila River Arena. "We're getting stops from our goalie, our top guys have been excellent and in this little run we're on, I think our power play is top 10 in the league and our PK (penalty kill) is like fifth. It really is that simple."

The Coyotes (8-13-4) have been getting solid play from Mike Smith in goal, but Treliving's remarks about the Flames' "top guys" surely resonated with Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.

"It's the lack of good plays being made," Tippett said after Tuesday night's 4-0 loss at Chicago. "Usually the top players on your team make good plays, whether it's on the power play or creating chances. We're not getting enough of those made. Then you look at some grind plays; should be able to grind some chances out. Not getting enough of those plays. Just not creating enough offense."

Of Arizona's 25 games this season, 17 have been decided by one goal. But the Coyotes are being outshot 35.1 to 28.2 on a per-game average, and they have scored more than two goals just three times in their last 13 games.

Smith (.924 save percentage) is saving the Coyotes from a worse fate on a nightly basis.

Since returning from a left leg injury on Nov. 16, Smith has stopped 301 of 324 shots over that stretch for a .929 save percentage.

"We have to do a better job helping Smitty out," defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson told FOX Sports Arizona.

Calgary (14-13-2) opened the season at 5-10-1, and the struggles were compounded by left winger Johnny Gaudreau's broken pinkie, which forced him to miss 10 games.

Even before Gaudreau returned to the lineup on Sunday, however, the Flames were getting big contributions from center Sean Monahan (three goals, seven points in his last five games), goalie Chad Johnson (9-2 with a .931 save percentage since assuming the starting goaltending duties from Brian Elliott) and others.

Gaudreau has two goals and four points in the two games since his return, and the Flames are rolling.

"I think we did a good job through the time Johnny wasn't here in establishing a base of play," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Now that we get an offensive catalyst like Johnny in the mix, it just gives us a few more chances every game."

share story