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Arizona Coyotes having a not-so-merry Christmas break

It has been a long time since the Arizona Coyotes have found themselves this far out of playoff contention during the holiday season.

With the New Year a week away, the Coyotes (12-18-4) have the second-worst record in the Western Conference and third-worst mark in the entire NHL. Their minus-32 goal differential is the worst it has ever been during the Dave Tippett era.

Arizona struggles as much at home (5-8-3) as they do on the road (7-10-1), and the only thing keeping them out of the NHL cellar is its 5-0-0 record against the lowly, league-worst Edmonton Oilers.

The Coyotes are in sell, sell, sell mode, with veterans such as Antoine Vermette and Keith Yandle reportedly on the trading block. The team is looking to get younger with an eye toward future success.

Arizona’s problems are plentiful. The team struggles to score at even strength, and struggles even more to keep pucks out of its own net.

Averaging 2.29 goals per game, the Coyotes rank 25th in the league in offense. Arizona is one of only two teams lacking a 10-goal scorer at the break, the other being the Buffalo Sabres. Mikkel Boedker leads the team with nine, scoring five of them in the first three games of the season.

Yandle, a defenseman, leads the team in points with 23. Vermette leads all forwards with 22 points.

Despite the low offensive totals, the Coyotes have one of the better power plays in the NHL. Clicking at a 19.6 percent clip, their power play ranks 12th-best in the league, despite the offseason losses of Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Vermette lead the team with five power play goals each.

For all of its offensive woes, it has been defense and goaltending that has really let Arizona down this season. The Coyotes rank fourth-worst in the league in goals allowed, giving up 3.24 goals per game. Their Western Conference-worst penalty kill has not helped matters.

Aside from the cornucopia of turnovers and more than a few defensive lapses, goaltending is the standout area of concern.

Starting goaltender Mike Smith ranks 43rd out of 44 qualified netminders in goals against average (3.48) and save percentage (.884). Smith is 5-15-2 this season, winning consecutive starts only once.

While offseason free agent acquisition and backup goalie Devan Dubnyk (7-3-2 with a .920 save percentage) has been one of very few bright spots for the team, it has not been enough to pull the Coyotes back into contention.

The Coyotes are a poor possession team whose defensive deficiencies and goaltending issues have dragged them down to the bottom of the standings. It appears 2014-15 will be another lost season for a Coyotes team set to miss the playoffs for the third time in a row.

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