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Arizona Coyotes host Boston Bruins in Buck Bash bonanza

Gila River Arena should be high spirited as the Arizona Coyotes take on the Boston Bruins.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes are back on a regular schedule this week after two back-to-backs in eight days of the new NHL season. Their next test will be the big, bad, Boston Bruins, who visit Gila River Arena tonight.

Matchup at a Glance

Boston Bruins Arizona Coyotes
Points 2 (T-7th Atlantic) 6 (3rd Pacific)
Goals For 3.25 (T-8th) 3.25 (T-8th)
Goals Against 4.50 (29th) 1.50 (T-4th)
Power Play 33.3% (2nd) 4.8% (28th)
Penalty Kill 71.4% (25th) 93.8% (2nd)
5v5 Corsi For 49.8% (16th) 45.6% (24th)
PDO 96.3 (22nd) 111.9 (1st)

View from Boston

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To say it was a bizarre offseason in Boston would be a dramatic understatement. The team parted ways with General Manager Peter Chiarelli - replacing him with Don Sweeney - but retained head coach Claude Julien. After a puzzling draft, the team traded away Dougie Hamilton to Calgary and Milan Lucic to Los Angeles, while trading for NHL pugilist Zac Rinaldo.

The Bruins are off to a rocky start, with just one win in their first four games. The biggest problem has been the defense, which has conceded 18 goals in four games. Zdeno Chara's return from injury should make the defense a little bit better, but the Bruins had no real replacement for Hamilton, and still have a razor thin blue line.

However, their offense is proving to be as potent as ever. Matt Beleskey has a goal and an assist in four games, and young players like David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner are off to decent starts. If Boston can figure its defense out, their offense could make them a better club than most anticipated at the beginning of the year.

View from Arizona

The Arizona Coyotes finally lost their first game of the year on Thursday; a wild (no pun intended) back and forth affair against Minnesota. The Coyotes nearly came all the way back from a 4-1 deficit, which is something Boston fans are undoubtedly familiar with.

Lost in the terrific start from rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair has been the relative inability of the Coyotes' older players to get on the score-sheet; Antoine Vermette, Shane Doan, Mikkel Boedker, Brad Richardson, and Kyle Chipchura have a combined three points this year (all assists). When the kids hit a wall, the veterans will need to take over in the scoring department.

Mike Smith also looked human for the first time this year, surrendering three goals on 17 shots before his night ended early. His first real test of the season will be bouncing back from an underwhelming performance.

Keys to the Game

  1. No Cheap Chances - Minnesota capitalized on a couple of bad mistakes by the Coyotes' defense to jump out to a big lead. Arizona can't do that against Boston.
  2. Exploit the Defense - Boston's blue line is extremely vulnerable; they've conceded six goals on two different occasions this year. The Coyotes can make their lives miserable tonight.
  3. Do What You Did in the Third - The Coyotes had 30 Corsi events in the third period of their last game, to Minnesota's five. That kind of lopsided possession makes life very easy for a goaltender.

Players to Watch

David Krejci is Boston goals and points leader on the year, with three goals and six points. He and Patrice Bergeron are still one of the better 1-2 center combinations in the NHL.

The biggest beneficiary of Anthony Duclair's four goal start is likely Martin Hanzal, who leads the team in points and assists with seven. In fact, Hanzal is already a quarter of the way towards beating his career best 27 assist season in 2007-08.

Injury Report

Boston is without defenseman Dennis Seidenberg until mid-November due to a spinal injury. Meanwhile, defenseman Joe Morrow is questionable for tonight's game (illness), while Brad Marchand is questionable due to concussion symptoms.

Antoine Vermette left Thursday night's game after appearing to pull up lame while skating during the second period. He is questionable tonight.

Puck Drop

Tonight is dollar beer (and other things) night at Gila River Arena, so expect the place to be rocking all evening long. Puck drops at 7 PM; you can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.