After only playing each other last Thursday, the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks meet up again, only this time in Arizona at Gila River Arena.
Both teams have played once since their last encounter and both teams remain among the basement dwellers of the NHL this season - will a win tonight for either team spark some change?
View from Vancouver
For more on the Vancouver Canucks, check out Nucks Misconduct.
Last time these teams met, the Canucks managed to grind out a 3-2 overtime victory over a very wasteful Coyotes team who were deflated about halfway through the game. A rare overtime penalty shot scored by Vancouver defender Ben Hutton got the Canucks over the line against the Coyotes - and injuring Brad Richardson via a Nikita Tryamkin off-puck collision probably didn’t hurt Vancouver’s chances of winning either.
Since that game Vancouver have only played once, managing what is quite frankly an impressive overtime loss against the Western Conference leading Chicago Blackhawks. The Canucks may come in to Wednesday night’s game against the Coyotes with much more confidence than when compared to their last meeting. Another victory over Arizona could be useful for Vancouver legitimizing themselves as a team who doesn’t currently belong at the bottom of the NHL.
View from Arizona
For a team dead last in the Western Conference, things are not as bad as they seem.
Sure it’s awful that workhorse center Brad Richardson is out indefinitely after having what could be argued as his best start to a season ever. And it sure does suck that Dylan Strome couldn’t match it in the NHL like many of his draft year peers have this season and has been sent back down to major junior. Of course the tragedy in Tuscon involving the ever popular captain Craig Cunningham has sent ripples and tears not only through the Arizona franchise but the entire NHL. But things aren't as bad as they seem - are they?
Despite all this, the Coyotes managed to escape with a 3-2 overtime victory against the San Jose Sharks. While there is a lot to be critical of in that win (like giving up 45 shots on goal), there are still a lot of positives such as: Mike Smith playing like it’s 2012 and...the Coyotes actually winning a game!
As disastrous as the early parts of this season have been, the optimist believes a short winning streak is enough to put the Coyotes back into the wild-card mix with the rest of the mess in the Western Conference.
- Does Christian Dvorak get the Brad Richardson gig? - In the game immediately following Brad Richardon’s injury, Dvorak was recalled once more from the AHL to fill the gap. Furthermore, Dylan Strome’s demotion to major-junior only strengthens Dvorak’s claim to a full time NHL spot. Will this be the case, or will we soon see the Coyotes call up a more experienced (but probably less exciting) option from the AHL? Perhaps all this room in the center position opens up a chance for Ryan MacInnis to make his NHL debut.
- Can the Coyotes reduce the shot count? - As great as the win against San Jose was, giving up 45 shots on goal shouldn’t be something associated with winning games. We are still yet to see true consistency from either goaltender so it’s still in all of the Coyotes’ best interests to reduce the amount of puck making its way to the net. Hopefully against a non-powerhouse team like Vancouver, Arizona can prove they can do just that.
- Can Oliver Ekman-Larsson get his mojo back? - After starting the season on fire and carrying the team, Ekman-Larsson has only had 1 assist in his last 5 games. His drop in offensive productivity has probably been a response to critics of his defensive game but the OEL know and love can do both. It’d be fantastic to see his name on the scoring sheet once more.
Players to Watch
Vancouver - The Sedin Twins - The Sedins were were influential last time these teams met as they helped orchestrate the Canucks’ comeback in the game. Shutting them down successfully this time around is imperative to the Coyotes’ goal of victory.
Arizona - Jordan Martinook - With the loss of Brad Richardson at the center position, Martinook’s importance and value to the team has just skyrocketed. They are very similar players who are exceptionally gifted as defensive forwards but both have also led the way in terms of scoring for the Coyotes thus far in the season. Martinook should be seeing more ice time than ever in his career right now, especially if the Coyotes end up on the wrong end of a bunch of penalties.
Vancouver is without Chris Tanev, Jannik Hansen, and Derek Dorsett, who are all on injured reserve. Anton Rodin and Philip Larsen are both out indefinitely.
Brad Richardson will miss an extended period of time and is on injured reserve, while Alex Goligoski and Ryan White are questionable with minor ailments. Lawson Crouse missed Saturday night’s game against San Jose, but is considered probably for tonight.
Tonight’s game begins at 8 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game live at Gila River Arena, watch it on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.