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Lack of production starting to sink Coyotes

by Jerry Brown /
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Keith Yandle hit the post on the power play. Mikkel Boedker’s shot into the open side of the net hit Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller on the side of his head. Lee Stempniak had a 2-on-0 scoring chance on the first shift of the game and couldn't convert.

The Coyotes outshot the Ducks 31-24 and had another 17 shots blocked and another 17 that missed the net in Tuesday’s 3-1 home loss to Anaheim. As an isolated incident, it could be chalked up to poor “puck luck.” The chances were there, Phoenix just didn’t cash in.

But it’s not an isolated incident. The Coyotes have gone four straight games with just one goal and have a grand total of 10 goals in the last seven games. And since they were within a point of the Western Conference lead following  a seven-game winning streak in late November, they have been stuck in a 5-7-2 malaise over the last 14 games -- with one goal or less in half of them -- punctuated by poor production by the players expected to carry the load.

Now 35 games into the season, checking center Martin Hanzal leads the Coyotes with 9 goals. The New Jersey Devils -- dead last in the NHL with 20 points -- are the only other team without a double-digit goal scorer. The Coyotes don’t have any dynamic offensive players and figured to score by committee as they did last year. But right now, that committee could fit in a phone booth.

“We have some players who, if you look at the stats, just take the last 10 games, are non-existent,” a disgusted Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after Tuesday’s loss. “Players we rely on to at least chip in offensively now and then … now and then has turned into a long time.”

Scottie Upshall hasn’t had a single point since Dec. 1. Radim Vrbata has one goal in the last 14 games. Eric Belanger? No goals in the last 20 games. Lee Stempniak has one since Nov. 23. Lauri Korpikoski had seven goals in the first 24 games. In the last 11, he has one. Wojtek Wolski had goals in back-to-back games after being benched in mid-December, but has just 6 goals all year after signing a two-year, $7.6 million contract extension.

Add in some injuries -- Ilya Brzgalov missed five games, and Vrbata and Taylor Pyatt remain out -- and the Coyotes are scrounging for any offense they can find. The lack of a true, top-line center and players willing to fight for rebounds down low is glaring.

“I’d like to think it’s ‘puck luck,’ but I’d like to think you earn that luck,” Tippett said. “You earn confidence, you earn that luck. We’re just not doing enough to earn either. Chance-wise (Tuesday), we had our chances, but we didn’t bury them. Once you start chasing the game, it looks helter-skelter, and that’s how we looked.

“Let’s be honest … we haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard.”

Captain Shane Doan, who had the only goal in Tuesday -- which came after more than 90 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play -- and Pyatt are the only two Coyotes with more than two goals over the last 10 games. Doan has only five all season, while Pyatt has missed the last three games after taking a Deryk Engelland punch to the chin in Pittsburgh on Dec. 20. He skated Tuesday and could return tonight, which could give Tippett a chance to re-tool his lines.

And right in the middle of this tailspin comes a meeting with the red-hot Kings, who have won four straight and are getting contributions from everywhere. Their 4-0 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Monday was hailed by several Kings as the best of the season. Over the last nine games, the duo of Anze Kopitar (5-9-14) and Dustin Brown (7-10-17) has combined for 12 goals and 31 points.

By contrast, the Coyotes -- all of them -- have a grand total of 20 goals in their last 10 games.

Kopitar and Brown are just the latest in a slew of dynamic scoring duos the Coyotes have faced during their goal drought. They caught a red-hot Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, woke up the sticks of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in San Jose, side-stepped Loui Eriksson and Brad Richards in Dallas and faced Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf of Anaheim on Tuesday.

Not the kind of gauntlet you want to run through without the ability to fire back.

“The recipe for scoring goals is working hard and getting pucks to the net. It’s not like we’re not trying to do that,” said defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who has one point, an assist, in the last 10 games. “We have to work and hack and something good is going to happen.”
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