Coyotes on shrinking list of playoff hopefuls
We’ve reached the point in the season where teams start falling by the wayside in the playoff race. The best the Coyotes can say at this point is that they are not one of those teams yet.
By defeating Edmonton, 3-1, on Wednesday in Edmonton, the Coyotes essentially eliminated the Oilers, who would likely need to go undefeated the rest of the way to squeak in. That won’t be happening.
Given current projections that it will take 54 (or even 55) points to qualify for the postseason, it is also safe to write off the Nashville Predators, who couldn’t overcome a series of key injuries, a pop-gun offense and the loss of defenseman Ryan Suter in free agency in the offseason. The most points Nashville can achieve are 52.
We already knew Colorado and tonight’s opponent, Calgary, were dead as well, but the Coyotes must avoid thinking that the Flames will roll over just because they currently sport a 14-21-4 record and Jarome Iginla is playing in Pittsburgh.
In one of the handful of games that is sure to haunt the Coyotes if they do not qualify for the playoffs, Calgary scored goals 23 seconds apart from Iginla and Curtis Glencross in the final minutes of the third period on Feb. 24 to turn what looked like a regulation loss into a 5-4 win over Phoenix at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Clearly, that can’t happen again if the Coyotes hope to extend their season, but at least hope is still alive after the gut-check win in Edmonton.
"We got the points, and we're still in the race," coach Dave Tippett said.
Here’s a look at the other teams in the race for the Western Conference’s eighth and final seed, along with their remaining opponents entering Thursday’s play. It’s possible that teams such as Minnesota, St. Louis and San Jose could fall back into this race, opening up a second playoff spot, but for the moment, we’re assuming they will not suffer dramatic slumps and will secure their spots.
Record: 19-15-5 (44 points)Maximum number of points they can achieve: 60Current standing: 8thRemaining opponents – Home (3): Phoenix, Los Angeles, Nashville; Away (5): Chicago, Nashville, Calgary, Vancouver, Dallas.
Record: 18-16-6 (42 points)Maximum number of points they can achieve: 58Current standing: 9thRemaining opponents – Home (3): San Jose, San Jose, Colorado; Away (5): Calgary, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim.
Record: 19-17-3 (41 points)Maximum number of points they can achieve: 59Current standing: 10thRemaining opponents – Home (4): San Jose, Vancouver, Columbus, Detroit; Away (5): Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Jose.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Record: 17-16-7 (41 points)Maximum number of points they can achieve: 57Current standing: 11thRemaining opponents – Home (2): St. Louis, Nashville; Away (6): Minnesota, Colorado, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas.
THREE KEY OPPONENT STATS
1-6: That’s Calgary’s record since the Flames traded former captain Jarome Iginla to Pittsburgh on March 28. In that span, Calgary has been outscored 30-14.
3.46: Calgary is allowing a league-worst 3.46 goals per game. The Coyotes have scored eight goals in two games against the Flames this season and must continue that trend while goalie Mike Smith shuts the door.
47.2: Puck possession begins with faceoffs, and the Flames have struggled in that department, posting the league’s third-worst percentage. By contrast, the Coyotes rank third in the league, winning 52.8 percent.
THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Youth movement: Since dealing Iginla, the Flames have embarked on a youth movement that includes Max Reinhart (21), the son of former Flame Paul Reinhart, and 20-year-old Sven Baertschi, an offensive talent who struggled with the Flames earlier this season. C Ben Street (26), D Mark Cundari (22), F Greg Nemisz (22) and LW Johnny Gaudreau could also get looks as the Flames finally embrace a rebuild that many analysts believe they should have started long ago.
Homecoming: The Calgary road trip is always homecoming for several Coyotes. Shane Doan is from Halkirk (northeast of Calgary); forward Nick Johnson is from Calgary; and forward Rob Klinkhammer is from Lethbridge (southeast of Calgary)
Picks to click: Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has seven points (six assists) in seven career games against the Flames, including four assists in the clubs’ first two meetings this season. Doan has 43 points (15 goals) in 59 games against the Flames.
For the Coyotes, F Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) is day to day. For the Flames, Flames forward Jiri Hudler (upper body), F Brian McGrattan (shoulder) and D Derek Smith (lower body) are day to day.
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