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Coyotes face Maple Leafs in last game before the holiday break

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It’s youth hockey night at Gila River Arena and Auston Matthews is home for the holidays.

Arizona Coyotes v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It’s going to be a special night at Gila River Arena this evening, going into the holidays. Will it be the North Pole or will it be the Land of Misfit Toys?

It is Youth Hockey Night/Young Guns night and the hometown son has come home to Arizona for his first away game against the Coyotes. All eyes will be on Auston Matthews tonight, some with great hope that they will one day be like Auston, and other hoping Matthews can be kept off the score sheet.

View from The Six Toronto

For more on the Toronto Maple Leafs, check out Pension Plan Puppets

Auston Matthews now has 16 goals and has shown no signs of stopping. He scored again last night against the dead last Colorado Avalanche. The Leafs scored by committee against the Avs in a shutout for Frederik Andersen.

The Coyotes may be seeing Antoine Bibeau in net tonight since Andersen did the work last night stopping 38 of 38 stops. If the Coyotes do face Bibeau it will be only his second game in the NHL. The 22 year old goaltender has only started one game in was against Colorado on December 11th where he recorded a loss with 2 goals on 28 shots.

The Leafs are starting to find their grove, and with Babcock’s system’s starting to fall into place, this could be a spirited game, just like the game on December 15th.

View from Arizona

The Coyotes are coming off an emotional loss against the Edmonton Oilers, which snapped a 25 game point streak against them. Amazingly, no one is going to be suspended after the donnybrook on Wednesday night.

The Coyotes are in 29th place and seemingly stuck there. The offense has dried up a bit and it seems that they are just waiting for a shoe to drop, be it either a firing or a trade.

The team has sat Anthony DeAngelo as a healthy scratch the past two games making you think that they are looking to trade one of their highly sought after right handed, right shot defensemen.

A win going into the Holiday break would be good for the Coyotes, to try to right the ship that is a little unsteady at the moment.

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes not let 40+ shots get to Mike Smith? - With Mike Smith having faced over 500 shots since November 19th, it makes you wonder if the bleeding will ever stop. Smith is playing lights out right now and doing what he can to help his team win, but the defense needs to help a guy out a little.
  2. Can the Coyotes play a full 60 minutes? - The Coyotes have been able to put together almost complete games, but they will need to play a full 60 minutes to stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is not your dad’s Leafs who leaf it up. They have the potential to be terrifying when allowed in the offensive zone as Colorado found out last night.
  3. Can Shane Doan keep up and get his 400th goal? - Shane Doan has started to slow down a bit. His age is starting to show, but hopefully a holiday miracle will happen and he scores against the Leafs for 400.

Players to Watch

Arizona - Peter Holland - With Holland playing in his new arena against his old team a lot of the narrative will be, can he score against his old team. Holland had set his linemates up for success in his first game as a Coyote, but has gone a little quiet lately. Maybe tonight will be the night he bounces back.

Toronto - Auston Matthews - Yep, still going to be Auston Matthews. Matthews is playing his hometown team in their arena. Tonight is the night a lot of kids will see Auston Matthews play and say ‘I want to do that’. It’s going to be a special night for hockey in the Valley and its going to be amazing either way.

Injury Report

Arizona is without Brad Richardson indefinitely, as he broke his leg in a freak collision in Vancouver three weeks ago. Max Domi is out for at least two months after undoing surgery to repair a broken hand. Chychrun, Martin Hanzal and Ryan White took maintenance days on Thursday but Tippett did say they would be available.

Toronto is without Joffrey Lupul and Stephane Robias who is on Robidas Island with the other misfit toys of Toronto. Martin Marincin is out with back issues indefinitely and Ben Smith has been placed on IR with an upper body injury. Tyler Bozak is day to day with a lower body injury as well.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game begins at 7:00 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Go or listen on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.