Flames, Coyotes seek return to winning ways

Alan Robinson, The Sports Xchange
Mark Giordano and the Calgary Flames face the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Mark Giordano and the Calgary Flames face the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There wasn't much open ice for the Calgary Flames, not many shooting lanes, not much room to get the puck past an on-his-game goaltender.

A team with multiple high-quality scorers hasn't experienced much of that recently while winning three of four and eight of 12, but the Flames did during a 2-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights and goaltender Marc Andre-Fleury on Friday night.


"These are the games you've got to get used to," Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano said. "That's what the league's going to be about, especially as the year goes on. That's desperate (Vegas) team over there. They're battling to get in the race."

The Arizona Coyotes know all about that. Only a few weeks ago, they were the team that was beating opponents with speed and a defensive system that was creating plenty of offense with its ability to turn the puck over. They also were scoring more short-handed goals (10) than many teams were on the power play.

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But the Coyotes have lost three in a row and eight of 10 after winning five straight, and they may be reaching the point that determines whether they'll trend upward or downward the rest of the season.


Just as the Flames will be looking to get back on their recent hot streak, the Coyotes will be trying for a turnaround win when they close out a five-game homestand against he Flames on Sunday at Gila River Arena.

The Coyotes are 1-2-1 on the homestand so far, and they're not winning mostly because they're not scoring. They've generated two goals or fewer in six of their last seven games.

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"As coaches, you've got to be careful when you're not scoring because you magnify everything," Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said Saturday. "You want to loosen guys up, but at the same time there's got to be urgency by some players. We don't have the type of team that can only have 13, 14 people going."

At about the same time the Flames weren't generating any offense a few hundred miles away in Las Vegas on Friday, the Coyotes never got much going during a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche that represented one of their worst efforts of the season.

J.T. Compher, injured and out of the Colorado lineup for six weeks, returned to score twice short-handed on the same shift in the first period, and Mikko Rantanen scored moments later to finish a three-goal sequence in 2:11 that effectively ended it.


"I thought we were going good and then, all of a sudden, the rails came off," Tocchet said. "That's what we can't do, duplicate mistakes. That's kind of the microcosm of the team right now."

The Coyotes are aware that the Flames can turn on the offense in a hurry, too, as Calgary averages 3.26 goals per game to Arizona's 2.43. Flames left winger Matthew Tkachuk has five goals in five games and center Sean Monahan has three goals in four games.

"They've got some high-skill guys, they play an offensive game and we're aware of that," Arizona defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "For us, it's getting back to our game and being real stingy defensively and getting to their net and throwing a ton of pucks at them."

It would help if forward Clayton Keller would rev up his game. After scoring five goals in five games, Keller doesn't have a goal in 11 games, or since Oct. 27.

Similarly, Calgary right winger James Neal doesn't have a goal in nine games, but coach Bill Peters likes that Neal took seven shots -- four of which were blocked -- against Vegas.


Arizona goaltender Antti Raanta returned from an eight-game layoff with a lower-body injury to start Friday and allow all five Colorado goals, and he'll be back in net Sunday, according to Tocchet.

Former Coyotes goalie Mike Smith held down the starter's net during the Flames' practice on Saturday, but starter David Rittich is 8-2 with a 2.04 goals-against average and, until Friday, hadn't lost since Oct. 23. Peters declined Saturday to name a starter.

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