Coyotes set to conclude Eastern swing
Life was not as fresh and rosy for the Phoenix Coyotes on the ice as it seemed to be off of it. After having lost three out of their last four games, including a 3-0 shutout at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, the desert dogs headed into the Nassau Coliseum to face the New York Islanders. Scottie Upshall was the latest victim of Dave Tippett's benching spree, Wojtek Wolski having served his time before him. Radim Vrbata hadn't scored in his last eleven games. Jason LaBarbera would have to make a second consecutive start after surrendering a momentum-shifting goal to Brandon Prust of the Rangers and coming out on the wrong end of that 4-3 decision Thursday night. At the other end, twenty-seven year old Nathan Lawson was poised to make his NHL debut for the Islanders amidst questions surrounding the status of veteran Dwayne Roloson.
Lawson fared well in his first start, with 32 saves.
Luckily for the Coyotes, none were in the shootout.
Vrbata's power play goal was the lone Phoenix marker heading into the third period, as the Islanders' Jesse Joensuu and Michael Grabner doubled up for the Islanders before second intermission. In the final frame, Wojtek Wolski's shot found its way into the net for the first time since November 23rd, and the Coyotes had some life before Taylor Pyatt took a tripping penalty and Rob Schremp capitalized for the Islanders. With just over a minute and a half left in regulation, Martin Hanzal, posted at the side of the net, redirected a Radim Vrbata pass behind Lawson and the two teams had to decide their fate in extra time...
And with that, hundreds of lives were saved from the wrath of your resident Phoenix Coyotes' blogger in the non-existence of losses to BOTH the Devils and Islanders in the same week.
The Atlantic Division ride concludes Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins who, if you have access to HBO lately, are probably the most picturesque opponent especially having lost two straight after a string of twelve wins. Their overall record stands at 21-10-2 as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference, while Phoenix is at 15-9-7 and tied with Los Angeles for ninth in the West. Ilya Bryzgalov, suffering from an upper-body injury, will only be able to rejoin the team on Tuesday. LaBarbera and AHL call-up Matt Climie will share the goaltending duties in his absence.
The infamous Crosby pointstreak will be tested once again as it now stands at 20 games. The other man wearing the 'C' in this matchup, Shane Doan, hasn't done too shabby for himself either, starring even in losing causes (3-4-7 over his last stretch of six games). On the blueline, the up-and-coming Keith Yandle has nine points including eight assists in his last eight games, while averaging over 29 and a half minutes of ice time in his last two.