Their ownership situation may be in turmoil and their franchise goaltender may have flown the coop, but the Phoenix Coyotes still keep finding ways to win games.
Phoenix arrives in Toronto for Tuesday's game on a hot streak, having gone 6-1-2 in their last nine games and climbing into a tie for fifth place in the Western Conference.
Mike Smith, who will start in goal, has been a big reason why, posting a .931 save percentage in 12 games, but he has had some help up front, too. Without many stars, the Coyotes have nonetheless been getting enough offence from the likes of Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal.
Their defensive game under coach Dave Tippett, meanwhile, remains their trademark, and it's something the Toronto Maple Leafs are well aware of as they try and end a three-game losing streak on home ice.
"Especially on the road, they're going to try and keep it simple," said Leafs centre Matt Lombardi, who had a career year in 2009-10 with the Coyotes. "Try and make us make mistakes and get away from our game. That's what I remember. They're a hard-working team and they try and pressure other teams."
"When a team's as good as Phoenix is defensively, it's hard to get the lead," Leafs coach Ron Wilson added. "Hopefully we get off to a good start, create offence, get to the front of the net and play our game. We've got to just use our speed."
Off the ice, the Coyotes remain a mess, as more than two and a half years since going into bankruptcy back in May of 2009, they are owned by the league and are trying to find a buyer. While there are two interested parties, time is running out to put together a lease that will keep the team in Arizona.
The NHL has quietly made it known that it isn't interested in owning the team beyond this season, which means relocation could come as soon as this summer if a deal's not put together in time.
Phoenix has the second worst attendance in the league at this point with an average of 10,481 fans a game.
- The Leafs will give rookie Ben Scrivens his third straight start and fifth in the past six games as Wilson continues to be reluctant to use Jonas Gustavsson. Toronto has back-to-back games this weekend and may have to turn to The Monster soon.
- Tippett said he always felt Smith was a No. 1 goaltender when he coached him in Dallas and he was the backup. He credited goalie coach Sean Burke for his work in getting him over his poor play and injuries over the past couple seasons.
- Tim Connolly continues to get close to a return but won't be in the lineup. Expect to see him (and likely former Preds defenceman Cody Franson) play in Nashville on Thursday, however.
- Colton Orr missed the morning skate due to illness.
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Lombardi - Steckel - Frattin Brown - Dupuis - Crabb
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Liles - Komisarek Gardiner - Schenn
Coyotes lineup (based on latest game)
Whitney - Hanzal - Vrbata Korpikoski - Gordon - Pyatt Boedker - O'Reilly - Doan Torres - Chipchura - O'Sullivan
Yandle - Morris Klesla - Schlemko Ekman-Larsson - Aucoin