Jan 22, 2014; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Phoenix Coyotes center Mike Ribeiro (63) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Coyotes: Behind Enemy Lines

The Buffalo Sabres head into the desert tonight for a showdown with the ‘Yotes!  Hope the Sabres don’t melt in the heat . . . .

Jan 28, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes goalie Thomas Greiss (1) is congratulated by defensemen Zbynek Michalek (4) after defeating the Los Angeles Kings in the third period at Jobing.com Arena. The Coyotes won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s Opponent: The Phoenix Coyotes

Record: 25-18-10, 60 pts.

Standings: Ninth in Western Conference

Current Streak: Won one

Phoenix is currently on the outside-looking-in, sitting in ninth place in a Western Conference that currently has only an eight points separating the 8th-place Canucks and the 12th-place Jets.  With a few consecutive wins, the ‘Yotes could wind up in a playoff spot.  A few losses in a row, and it’s panic time, baby!

The Coyotes already have a big win under their belts, as they defeated the LA Kings 3-0 Tuesday.  That shutout was backup goaltender Thomas Greiss‘s third-career shutout, and Griess will be who the Sabres must try and get the puck past tonight, as starting goalie Mike Smith is working out with the Coyotes’ goalie coach.

Sure you are, Mike!  Anything to avoid a replay of the infamous butt goal, right?

The Coyotes are the definition of a balanced attack, as they have seven players with over 30 points this season.  Only 9 points separate their top scorer , Mike Ribeiro (37), from their 8th-highest scorer,  Oliver Ekman-Larsson (28).  Such balance is what has allows Phoenix to boast the 10th most prolific offense in the NHL, at 2.83 goals per game.  With that many people who can score on any given night, it will be tough for the Sabres to keep the ‘Yotes off of the scoreboard.

The good news for the Buffalo Sabre?  As good as their offense is, the Coyotes’s defense coughs up as many goals as the offense scores.  On the season, Phoenix has been outscored by six goals, so their defense is not impenetrable.  Of course, it’s the Sabres we’re talking about here.  Some nights, I’m not convinced the blue and gold could score if the opponents were using a soccer net.  Still, it’s cause for hope!

As always, keep these facts in mind as you prepare your fan picks!!!

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