Game 19 Preview: Habs visit another surprising Western Conference team in Phoenix



The Canadiens roll into Glendale, Arizona tonight for a late game against the surprising Phoenix Coyotes. Habs fans are going to have to stay up a little late in order to watch the Canadiens in action tonight, and while many of us are probably going to be tired, let's hope the Canadiens are a little more lively than their fanbase is going to be when they hit the ice tonight, at 9PM.

We could go on and on about the Habs' problems on and off the ice. And let's face it, the problems are many, and one blog probably isn't enough to name them all. The solution, however, isn't as complex. If the Canadiens want to leave Arizona winners tonight, they're going to have to score.

It's as simple as that.

Carey Price is between the pipes tonight, and he should be expected to provide a similar performance to the one he did in Boston. I can't put my finger on why this is, but Price seems to be at his best when he's on the road. Take away the games in Pittsburgh and Vancouver in October, and Price's best performances have been coming out of the visiting dressing room. Three of those performances earned him the Molson Cup for the month of October, which is awarded the Canadien with the most 3 star points.

Yes, Price hasn't had his best start ever. Yes, his GAA is over 3.00 and most of the games he's played he's let up that many goals. And just like we could make a huge list of the Canadiens problems, we could argue even longer about Price and whether he deserves to be between the pipes tonight or not, especially after Jaroslav Halak was near perfect Tuesday night against the Flames. But Price is playing tonight, and I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that he'll have a strong performance tonight.

That being said, the Canadiens aren't going to win tonight if they don't score! Price can play his best game tonight, and it won't matter if the Habs don't put up points on the other side of the rink. The goals need to come in bunches tonight, and while that may be easier said than done, this is why Bob Gainey brought in game-breaking players such as Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez.

Whether Jacques Martin has the last change or not, whether he can get the favorable match-ups for those three or not, they need to take the game in hand and win it tonight, and put up the points that they're being paid to put up.

There's not much else to say, and this team, whether it's the Little 3, Carey Price, the defense, the coaching staff, or who ever else, are starting to run out of excuses. The wins need to start coming in, both on the road and at home, and in convincing fashion, and they need to come out of November with a winning record.


ANOTHER SURPRISING WESTERN TEAM

Truth be told, the eastern conference has been more or less predictable this year. Most teams that were in the playoffs last year are holding the fort at the moment, and besides a couple of surprising teams (like Carolina's ugly 13 game losing streak or Buffalo's spot atop the northeast), the Easten Conference Hockey Gods haven't decided to mess with us too much.

On the other hand, the west has all but been blown up. Besides a few teams like San Jose, Chicago and Calgary, most western teams seem to have had their roles reversed in the current standings. Colorado is atop the Northwest division and Anaheim is one of the worst teams in the league.

But one team is surprising many, and despite being the center of attention all throughout the summer, and all throughout legal troubles, court cases and public PR battles, they're doing it fairly quietly.

The Phoenix Coyotes somehow sit in 6th place in the Western Conference, despite all these public battles, despite a coaching change and a fairly thin line-up. They haven't been blowing teams out, but they have an impressive 39 goals against, which is one of the lowest in the league. Average over their last 10 with 5 wins and 5 losses, they come into tonight's game looking to jump ahead of the 4-way tie they currently sit atop of for that 6th spot.

Not surprisingly, the Yotes' leading scorer is Shane Doan with 14 points through 17 games, and while he's a -4, he's certainly making a case for himself when it comes to team Canada at next year's Olympics. Ed Jovanovski, who is considered by many to be one of the most overpaid defensemen in the league, is close behind with 13 points. Matthew Lombardi is the only other double digit player, and while the list of marquee players is short beyond those three, the Coyotes play a good system under Dave Tippett and will do everything they need to do to win a game.

Beyond these well known names, the Canadiens will have two connections to this distant Arizona team tonight. Not only is Phoenix the home of Tom Pyatt's older brother Taylor (you may remember him from such teams as the Vancouver Canucks), but the home of one of last year's best Canadiens players (before he fell to an ugly tendon injury that ended his season). Although there won't be many who played with him last year, the Habs are reunited with Robert Lang tonight, and just like Kovalev and Tanguay before him, he'll be looking to have a good performance against the team that decided they didn't want him.


HABS LINE-UP NOTES

Not surprisingly, the Little 3 are reunited tonight on the first line, according to Habs Inside/Out. Tom Pyatt will look to spark the second line with poor Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn. The third line of Moen, Metropolit and Pacioretty remains intact, and I anticipate that to remain a constant for the foreseeable future. Latendresse and Lapierre are demoted to the 4th line with Ryan White, who while only playing 5 minutes on Tuesday, has been doing his job.

No changes to report on defense and, as already states, Price will be between the pipes, and he's certainly hoping the team in front of him can score for a change.

FINAL PREDICTION: HABS 4 - COYOTES 0

Unlikely to happen, but a guy can dream, can't he?

Enjoy the game,

Prax
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