An announcement from the NHL regarding the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes is rumored when the playoffs are over for the team. Which could result in a double-gut punch to fans.
First punch: The season could end as soon as tonight, as the Coyotes face elimination down 3-0 in the series to the Detroit Red Wings. Another trip to the playoffs, another first-round exit looms unless somehow, against so many odds and so much historical data regarding the likelihood of such a miraculous endeavor, the Desert Dogs rally and make this a series again.
Second punch: The end of the franchise in Arizona could be here sooner than later, if at all. Opinions vary as to what the fate of the team will be, but it just seems like the possibility of the Coyotes jetting off to Winnipeg is more likely than at this time last year.
If indeed tonight is the end of both the series and the NHL in Arizona (for the foreseeable future), don't expect the Coyotes to go down easily. The urgency to win now is upon them, and they'd certainly like to win at least one game on home ice, if only to say goodbye to those who have been faithful to them over the years.
For the Coyotes to win tonight and salvage some pride, it begins with goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz has yet to have the kind of game the Coyotes figured would continue into the playoffs at the end of the regular season. He's not stopping shots with enough regularity, and he's not getting help from his defensemen to clear out the area in front of the net. The Red Wings camped in there Monday night, and the distraction probably affected Bryzgalov's ability to see the puck coming off sticks earlier and get a read on shots.
The second key to victory is not allowing Detroit to start strong, like the Wings did Monday with two goals early in the first period 44 seconds apart. That killed any momentum the Coyotes hoped for and took the crowd out of the game. Scoring first would probably do wonders for Phoenix in this game. Drawing penalties and power-play opportunities will also boost the Coyotes' morale, as they have been efficient and aggressive when on the power play.
Third, the Coyotes have to feed off the emotion of what could be their last game in Jobing.com Arena and use it to fuel their play. While somehow trying to keep that off-ice situation in the back of their minds and focus on the game.
Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona. Be sure to check in with the live game thread at Five For Howling as well as their Game 3 preview.