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Arizona Coyotes search for answers against the New York Islanders

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After an embarrassing defensive performance against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, the Coyotes are searching for some answers as the New York Islanders come to town.

After conceding seven goals to the cellar dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night, head coach Dave Tippett was not at all happy with the way his team was defending their own zone.

It will not get any easier for the Desert Dogs when the New York Islanders come to visit Gila River Arena on Saturday night.

Matchup at a Glance

New York Islanders Arizona Coyotes
Points 41 (3rd Metropolitan) 30 (5th Pacific)
Goals For 2.67 (12th) 2.77 (9th)
Goals Against 2.33 (T-6th) 3.29 (29th)
Power Play 19.6% (T-11th) 15.2% (27th)
Penalty Kill 86.6% (2nd) 81.4% (14th)
5v5 Corsi For 49.8% (T-14th) 47.2% (26th)
PDO 100.4 (13th) 100.8 (T-10th)

View from New York

For the best New York Islanders coverage around, check out Lighthouse Hockey

With a five point lead over the 4th place New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders are in a comfortable position heading into the new year. The struggles of the New York Rangers and the 7-2-1 stretch the Islanders have enjoyed over their last ten games have placed the Isles within a single point of the Rangers for 2nd place in the division.

New York is in the middle of the pack on offense, but are led by the always dangerous Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, and Frans Nielsen. The one-two punch of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy has been supplemented this season by Marek Zidlicky, who has three goals and nine assists in 29 appearances.

The Islanders also have an abundance of riches at the goaltending position. Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss have been able to almost evenly split playing time;  Halak has 18 starts with a 9-5-3 record, a .920 save percentage , and a 2.13 GAA, while Greiss has 14 starts, with a 9-4-2 record, a .933 save percentage, and a 2.03 GAA. If the offense picks up, the Islanders could make some serious noise in the Eastern Conference.

View from Arizona

Usually, scoring five goals is an easy way to earn two points. Unfortunately, the Coyotes are proving to be anything but usual.

Arizona conceded seven goals against the Blue Jackets, but more troubling than that was the fact that every single one came at even-strength. Arizona wasn't being forced to defend with a man down, they were getting beat in their own end.

It's not clear what the answer is for the Coyotes. Clearly Anders Lindback and Louis Domingue need to be better. As does the defense. But with the holiday roster freeze imminent, the Coyotes may have no choice but to stick with what they've got for the time being.

Keys to the Game

  • Force New York Outside - The slot has been prime real estate for opposing teams for almost a month now. Arizona has to do better not giving the Isles easy looks at the Coyotes' netminder.
  • Get the Defense Involved - There are little plays Coyotes defenders could be making that would help the team immensely. If players like Michael Stone, Connor Murphy, and Stefan Elliott can use some of their offensive skill to extend Arizona's time in the zone, they will relieve a lot of pressure on themselves to back-check.
  • Get Some Second Chances - Arizona needs to be more than a one-and-done team. They need to collect rebounds, reset, and pressure the Islanders' defense into making mistakes.

Players to Watch

Josh Bailey does not get much attention outside of Brooklyn, but he is in the middle of yet another productive season. He has six goals and ten assists this year, and has been good for at least 25 points in every full NHL season he's played thus far.

Tobias Rieder has three goals and an assist in his last five, with eight goals and nine assists on the season overall. There are good odds that he will crack the 10+ goal plateau for the second time in as many seasons. Rieder is the real deal.

Injury Report

The only injury to report for the Islanders is a key one. Points leader Kyle Okposo will not play against the Coyotes tonight

Arizona by contrast is dealing with many short and long-term ailments. Joe Vitale, Martin Hanzal, and Mike Smith remain on injured reserve, while Zbynek Michalek has been ruled out for tonight's contest. Anthony Duclair and Anders Lindback are both battling illness, so it is uncertain whether either of them will dress tonight.

UPDATE (1:37 PM) Martin Hanzal will come off injured reserve and play tonight, according to the Coyotes' Dave Vest.

Puck Drop

The action begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.