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Something's gotta give

Two teams on massive losing streaks collide in hockey's central hotspot when the Arizona Coyotes face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

There are two constants in sports, winning and losing. Thursday night there will be a game that features two teams that are more inclined to the latter than the former. The Coyotes are set to take on the Maple Leafs in Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and someone has to win this game. One losing streak will end tonight, somehow, someway.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes Toronto Maple Leafs
Points 38 (6th Pacific) 48 (6th Atlantic)
Goals per game 2.23 (t-26th) 2.86 (11th)
Goals against per game 3.32 (29th) 3.06 (25th)
Power play 21.4 (t-7th) 19.1 (t-13th)
Penalty kill 75.6 (27th) 83.4 (t-7th)
5v5 Corsi for* 48.6 (23rd) 45.6 (27th)
PDO* 97.3 (t-29th) 100.2 (t-17th)

The View from Arizona

The Coyotes enter play tonight losers of seven straight games. They are 2-6-2 in their last ten, but they played a decent game returning to action from the All Star break against Philly. Things started promisingly, as the Desert Dogs jumped out a 2-0 lead in the opening period, but the defensive problems that have plagued them all year cropped up once again. They gave up 42 shots to the Flyers and lost 4-3 in a shootout, at least earning one point.

Mike Smith will likely man the crease again for Arizona. He stopped 39 of 42 shots on Tuesday and did everything he could to get the Coyotes back on the winning side. Smith is 4-1-2 in his career against Toronto. He lost both starts to the Leafs last season, but did get the win in Arizona's 3-2 victory back in November.

The View from Toronto

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Amazingly enough, the Coyotes aren't alone in playing bad hockey right now. The Maple Leafs are also mired in a miserable seven game losing streak and have gone 1-9-1 in January. Like the Coyotes, Toronto is coming off of a shootout loss in their first game back from the All Star break. The Leafs fell to the Devils in New Jersey 2-1 last night. That's an advantage for Arizona because they were actually in Toronto yesterday preparing for tonight's game while the Leafs played and traveled to get back home.

The Leafs have a two headed goaltending monster with both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer getting plenty of playing time. Bernier was in between the pipes yesterday which usually leads you to believe the other goalie will get the start in the second game of the back to back. But the Leafs are going to stick with Bernier for tonight. The former 1st round pick is 3-0-0 in his career against the Coyotes.

Keys to the Game

  • Start fast. The Coyotes didn't play last night and Toronto did. Arizona needs to get off to a quick start and get the Leafs on their heels. Take advantage of the schedule.
  • Shoot the puck. The Coyotes have been getting outshot far too much recently and need to shoot more. They have eclipsed 30 shots on goal four times in the last ten games and that isn't enough.
  • Stay in the now. There is a lot of talk about tanking, trades and losing swirling around the team. They need to ignore all that and just play hockey. Toronto isn't a good team right now. The Coyotes need this win. Just play hockey.

Who's Hot

Shane Doan has played well since missing some time with a lower body injury. He returned to action against the Jets and has four assists in the last three games.

James van Riemsdyk has two goals in the Leafs' last three games. He now leads the team with 21 goals and is second with 42 points, trailing only Phil Kessel's 44.

Injury Report

The Coyotes are without Mikkel Boedker, who is without his spleen. The Yotes may also be down Joe Vitale, who left the Flyers game late in the first period with an upper body injury. He's questionable for tonight. If he can't go, look for Brendan Shinnimin to draw into the lineup.

Toronto will be short captain Dion Phaneuf, who is out with an upper body injury. They may also not have Stephane Robidas, who is questionable for tonight. They may get back Joffery Lupul, who has missed all of 2015 so far for the Leafs.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game will get underway at 5:30 pm Arizona time. It will be on the radio on ESPN 620 AM and will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona. The next two Coyotes contests are radio only, so it's the last chance to watch them on TV for the week.