As bad as it is for the NHL for people to get behind the Phoenix Coyotes on a regular game night, even less people in Arizona will be interested in hockey, given the events outside a SafeWay in Tucson, Arizona. While the unfortunate events happened approximately 140 miles and three hours away from the home of the Phoenix Coyotes, you know the hearts and minds of all in attendance tonight will be with the families and loved ones of the tragic events of today. No one should have to endure the pain and suffering of a criminal terrorist as the people of Tucson are now coping with. God speed to all of them.
For the teams on the ice it will be business as usual. Before getting down to the business at hand of the hockey game, the Phoenix Coyotes will honor defensemen Ed Jovanovski, who played in his 1,000th NHL game on December the 6th. Quite an accomplishment. Congratulations go out to him for playing that many games in the NHL.
Lindy Ruff will be looking to lead his team to his 501st victory, and become the first coach in NHL history to complete that record with one team. Probably a more impressive accomplishment than playing in 1,000 games, in an era of revolving door coaches and a lack of dynasty’s. The last and only other coach to accomplish that was Toe Blake who did it with the powerful Montreal Canadiens in the 1950s.
Both teams are looking to gain ground on the playoff bound teams, as both Buffalo and Phoenix sit tenth in their respective conferences. The only difference between the two, a win puts the Coyotes in the top eight, the Buffalo Sabres sit eight points back of the Montreal Canadiens for the final playoff spot in the East. I have talked about how it doesn’t matter make the playoffs or not when your the eight seed team because the odds of winning in that role are slim to none; but just as they are eight points out of eight, they are only nine points out of third (with the Division lead). This is, I think, I testament to what use to be the strongest division in hockey, transformed into the weakest competitive division.