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Arizona Coyotes attempt to shake off bad loss with game versus Montreal Canadiens

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After a rough game in Ottawa, the Arizona Coyotes will try to right the ship in Montreal.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

That the Arizona Coyotes are not going to go 82-0-0 in the regular season this year is not exactly a surprise. But the way in which the Coyotes lost their first game of the season was troubling for a variety of different reasons.

Arizona continues its six game road-trip with a contest against the Montreal Canadiens, amidst the backdrop of Mike Smith’s injury and the

View from Arizona

A 7-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators would be bad enough in its own right. But Arizona lost after suffering what can only be described as a total meltdown.

Mike Smith left with an apparent left leg injury in the third period when the score was 3-2, well within striking distance for the Coyotes. However, Martin Hanzal committed a horrible defensive zone turnover that hung Louis Domingue out to dry on his first shot of the night, and less than a minute later three Coyotes failed to clear the defensive zone en route to another Ottawa goal.

The Coyotes scored a couple of goals afterwards, but the damage was done. What had been an otherwise uninspiring game that the Coyotes might have been able to steal a point or two out of swiftly became a debacle for the team to survive relatively intact.

To be fair, the Coyotes have played only two games thus far. And a bad loss in October is hardly season-breaking (see, for example, Arizona’s 6-3 loss to San Jose to open their 2011-12 season). But Tuesday night’s game was certainly a wet blanket on what has otherwise been an optimistic few weeks for Coyotes fans.

View from Montreal

For more on the Montreal Canadiens, check out Eyes on the Prize.

If last season told the league anything, it was that the Habs are a vastly different team with Carey Price in net than without. After Price went down with what proved to be a season ending injury, the Habs sputtered to a 13th place Eastern Conference finish and an uncertain future.

The shoe dropped in Montreal in spectacular fashion, when the Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to Nashville in exchange for Shea Weber. The move was widely panned across the hockey world, and seemed to be motivated not by a desire to improve the team but rather to be rid of a polarizing figure in Montreal.

As a result, Weber is the guy in Montreal, anchoring a defense that also includes Jeff Petry, Andrei Markov, and 2016 9th overall selection Mikhail Sergachev. With Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty leading the way up front, the Canadiens should be in the running for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this year.

Assuming Price stays healthy, of course.

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes avoid another meltdown? - Arizona did not play a perfect game by any means before Smith was injured, but they were resilient, and were keeping pace with Ottawa. They need to avoid another major hiccup in the game tonight.
  2. Which offseason acquisitions will make their presence known? - Jamie McGinn has yet to debut with the Coyotes, Radim Vrbata has only one helper on the year, and the defense signings of Luke Schenn and Jamie McBain have not exactly looked steady on the blue-line. Arizona didn’t spend a lot of money on the free agent market, but they need more value from the dollars they did spend.
  3. Will Louis Domingue build on his strong 2015-16 season? - Domingue was somewhat shaky against Ottawa, although he had no warmup time and was not exactly getting much help from the players in front of him. Given the Coyotes play tonight and tomorrow, Domingue was almost certainly going to play at some point in this stretch, so tonight might be a better barometer as to where he’s at.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Louis Domingue - Smith’s status is not clear at this point, but injuries have been a fact of life for him in his tenure with the Coyotes. That leaves an opportunity for Domingue to earn more playing time and solidify his status as Arizona’s future #1 netminder.

Montreal: Shea Weber - Shea Weber and P.K. Subban will be forever compared to the paths their respective careers take. Fair? Not at all. But Weber is thought of as an all-around complete NHL defenseman, and now in hockey’s pressure cooker, he will have to prove that he is better than his detractors say he is.

Injury Report

While Jamie McGinn is still on injured reserve for now and Mike Smith has been ruled out for tonight, there may be some good injury news on the horizon, as defenseman Michael Stone’s return from ACL/MCL surgery seems imminent.

Carey Price missed the first three games of the season with a particularly stubborn case of the flu. He is expected to debut tonight.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game begins at 4:30 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen to the game on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.