For the Arizona Coyotes, starting out the season against Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Anaheim looked like a recipe for disaster. But going into the third match-up, it's the Coyotes that have taken all four points up for grabs.
The Coyotes look to improve to 3-0-0 on the season when they play last season's Pacific Division champions - the Anaheim Ducks - for the first time tonight at the Honda Center. Arizona went 2-3-0 against the Ducks last season.
Match-up at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||Anaheim Ducks|
|Points||4 (3rd Pacific)||1 (5th Pacific)|
|Goals For||3.00 (T-11th)||0.50 (T-28th)|
|Goals Against||1.00 (T-3rd)||1.50 (T-6th)|
|Power Play||0 for 7||0 for 3|
|Penalty Kill||8 for 8||3 for 3|
|5v5 Corsi For||44.4% (26th)||50.9% (13th)|
|PDO||113.1 (1st)||97.1 (18th)|
View from Arizona
Yes, small sample sizes and all that. The Coyotes are certainly happier winning. Through two games, the team hasn't looked flawless, but they've looked good.
Martin Hanzal currently leads the way with three assists, which is an offensive asset Arizona lacked for much of the end of last season. Arizona is still waiting on the first goals of the season from Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker, and Hanzal, so the Coyotes are not getting offense from expected contributors.
Where most of their offense has come from is their young group of forwards; Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, and Tobias Rieder. All four are dynamic threats on the wings, and its good to see all four are off to a decent start.
View from Anaheim
The reigning Pacific Division Champions came within a game of making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since winning it in 2007. Anaheim made several minor moves, acquiring Carl Hagelin from New York, Kevin Bieksa from Vancouver, and Anton Khudobin from Carolina.
Anaheim still has a solid core, led by Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler. Most of their moves over the past two seasons have been designed to shore up their depth. As a result, the Ducks remained the heavy preseason favorite to win the Pacific Division again, and are one of the teams many predict will come out of the Western Conference.
In two games however, the Ducks have struggled to score. Defenseman Sami Vatanen is the only Duck with a goal, and the only other Duck hitting what he shoots at is Clayton Stoner.
Keys to the Game
- Keep the Kids Alright - Perry, Kesler, and Getzlaf are all very tough players who love throwing their bodies around. Arizona needs to keep their talented wingers as safe as possible by avoiding risky passes and possessing the puck as much as possible.
- Steady As She Goes - Arizona looked very good in the first couple of periods against Pittsburgh, but the Penguins started to tilt the ice against them as the game went on. Arizona needs to more consistently generate forechecking pressure, especially later on in the game.
- Power Play Shots - Keep shooting on the power play. It hasn't clicked just yet, but the promise is there.
Players to Watch
Mike Smith has been outstanding in his first two appearances. He has stopped 67 of 69 for a .971 save percentage. But as Anaheim is the road game of a back-to-back, he may sit in favor of Anders Lindback. It's hard to keep him on the bench when he's playing well though.
On the other end is Frederik Andersen. He hasn't been quite as good as Smith so far, but he's not far behind. Andersen has stopped 66 of 69 shots for a .957 save percentage. Andersen just needs some help in front of him.
Zbynek Michalek missed Saturday night's game against Pittsburgh with an upper body injury, but is expected to play tonight.
Anaheim has two players on injured reserve; winger Kenton Helgesen has an injured foot, though he was not really expected to play with the parent club this season. Center Nate Thompson on the other hand is recovering from two labral tears and is not expected back until mid-December.
Tonight's game begins at 7:30 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.