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Arizona Coyotes head east to play New Jersey Devils

The Arizona Coyotes begin their first bona fide road trip of the season tonight against the New Jersey Devils.

Wake me when this game is over, ref.
Wake me when this game is over, ref.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes haven't been away from home for too long; only two of their games thus far have been away from Gila River Arena, and the 'Yotes interspersed a home game against Pittsburgh and a three day break between the two.

Arizona will change that tonight when they play the first of five consecutive games against Eastern Conference opponents. Tonight's test: the New Jersey Devils.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes New Jersey Devils
Points 6 (3rd Pacific) 3 (6th Metropolitan)
Goals For 3.20 (T-8th) 1.60 (27th)
Goals Against 2.20 (T-9th) 2.60 (T-16th)
Power Play 8.3% (26th) 22.2% (T-11th)
Penalty Kill 81.8% (T-16th) 71.4% (27th)
5v5 Corsi For 46.8% (24th) 47.7% (22nd)
PDO 110.8 (1st) 95.7 (24th)

View from Arizona

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

The Coyotes have been shellacked in consecutive games now, after losing 4-3 to the Minnesota Wild and 5-3 to the Boston Bruins. One of the major culprits in both of those contests was the penalty kill, which conceded four goals in 11 opportunities. Arizona also gave up two shorthanded goals in that stretch.

If nothing else, Saturday night's debacle versus Boston was good because some old faces returned to the score-sheet. Shane Doan scored his first goal of the season, as did Kyle Chipchura. The veterans will need to help the younger players if the Coyotes are going to succeed.

One minor storyline to watch tonight is whether or not Matthias Plachta will make his NHL debut in place of Joe Vitale, who went on injured reserve after injuring himself in a fight against Boston's Kevan Miller. Vitale himself had not been playing in favor of Jordan Martinook, so if Martinook returns tonight Plachta may have to wait to make it into the lineup.

View from New Jersey

(Be sure to check out SB Nation's recently re-christened New Jersey Devils site - All About The Jersey - before the game tonight)

Besides Arizona, New Jersey was one of the other pre-season favorites to contend for the 1st overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft. With the departure of long-time General Manager Lou Lamoriello, the Devils were left with relatively few high-end prospects and an aging core of veterans like Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, and Mike Cammalleri.

It will be a reunion of sorts for the Coyotes, as former Desert Dogs Lee Stempniak, David Schlemko, and John Moore all skate for New Jersey. Stempniak has settled in nicely to the Devils' offense, with a goal and two assists in his first five games.

Still, the Devils not expected to do much in the near future. Pavel Zacha is an exciting forward in the system, and 21 year old defenseman Damon Severson is taking his first steps into the NHL this season. But the New Jersey has a lot more work to do to restock their prospect pool in order to return to being a perennial playoff team in the East.

Keys to the Game

  • Make Good Choices - Neither the power play nor the penalty kill has been particularly good in preventing goals against over the last two games, which is alarming. The Coyotes need to hold the offensive zone better and make sure all of their assignments are accounted for.
  • Find a Point Man - Mikkel Boedker is really struggling in the point man role. The Coyotes either need to figure out how to help him succeed, or find someone else that can.
  • Don't Allow Easy Chances - New Jersey may be off to a better start than many expected, but they still struggle to score goals. If the Coyotes can force the Devils to beat them with skill, then the Coyotes may be able to take two points out of this game.
  • Players to Watch

    Tobias Rieder continues his strong showing this season; he has three goals and two assists in five games. Though he was sort of lost in the excitement of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, Rieder is proving he more than earned his spot on the roster last season.

    Playing on some bad New Jersey teams has really masked how good Cory Schneider has been, and this season is no exception. Schneider is 1-1-1 this season, but with a .945 save percentage and a 1.62 GAA.

    Injury Report

    Joe Vitale will be on injured reserve for an indefinite period after sustaining a facial injury against Boston. Jordan Martinook missed Saturday night's game, and is uncertain for tonight's contest.

    Patrik Elias and Ryane Clowe are both on injured reserve; Elias' timetable is uncertain, but Clowe is not expected back this year. Tuomo Ruutu is out with an undisclosed ailment, while Jonathon Merrill is considered questionable.

    Puck Drop

    By virtue of playing on the East Coast, tonight's game gets underway at 4 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.