Blackhawks News

Three Phoenix Coyotes to Watch Versus the Chicago Blackhawks

By Sean Fitzgerald

Nov 12, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) scores the winning goal against the St. Louis Blues during overtime at the Scottrade Center. The Coyotes defeated the Blues 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks finally return to action on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes come into the United Center with a record of 13-4-2. The Coyotes come in winners of their last two games in a row and have eight of their last nine.

Here are three Coyotes to watch:

1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson: Ekman-Larsson was the 6th overall pick of the Coyotes in 2009 NHL draft. Ekman-Larsson is a smooth skating defenseman with great puck moving ability. Ekman-Larsson is the next big thing for the Coyotes. He has been known for his puck moving ability and his vision on the ice. He is an offensive defensive man. Last season Ekman-Larsson registered 24 points in 48 games. This season he has 4 goals and 11 assists on the season. The Blackhawks should be leery of this Coyote blue-liner.

2. Keith Yandle: Yandle is another offensive defenseman. Yandle was a 4th round pick in the 2005 draft. The scouting report on Yandle is that he has explosive skating instincts, superior offensive instincts, great puckhandling skills and a lethal one timer. Last season Yandle registered 10 goals and 20 assists in 48 games. This season Yandle has one goal and 13 assists on the season. This is another offensive defenseman that can put a puck on net.

3. Mike Smith: Smith has come to Phoenix via Dallas and Tampa Bay. Smith has flourished in Phoenix. Smith has a huge frame, at 6’4 215 pounds which helps he block most of the net. He also has great passing ability which aids his defensemen in clearing the zone. Smith went 15-12-5 with 2.58 goals against and 91% save percentage. This season Smith is 11-3-2 with a 2.81 goals against and a 91.7% save percentage.

Honorable mention: Radim Vrbata, is 33 years old. Vrbata has bounced around from Colorado, Carolina, to Chicago, to Phoenix, to Tampa Bay and back to Phoenix. Vrbata has a found a home in Phoenix, he has net a high 62 points in 2011-12. Vrbata has 6 goals and 7 assists on the season.

The Blackhawks face the Coyotes on Thursday at 7pm at the United Center.  Follow us on Twitter @Blackhawk_Up