The Arizona Coyotes spent a couple of days as a newly coherent group following the Trade Deadline. Lines were shuffled, additions were made, and the Coyotes could finally sleep in their own beds after a brutal road trip functionally knocked them out of the playoff picture.
Of course, this is the NHL, and so Arizona's reward for going 0-5-0 on their East Coast swing is to play the NHL's hottest team and a genuine threat to unseat Los Angeles as the Pacific Division leader: the Anaheim Ducks.
Matchup at a Glance
|Anaheim Ducks||Arizona Coyotes|
|Points||78 (2nd Pacific)||60 (5th Pacific)|
|Goals For||2.47 (23rd)||2.65 (T-15th)|
|Goals Against||2.31 (4th)||3.13 (30th)|
|Power Play||22.3% (4th)||18.3% (T-15th)|
|Penalty Kill||86.8% (2nd)||77.9% (25th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||53.3% (3rd)||46.8% (T-28th)|
|PDO||98.3 (T-29th)||100.2 (T-12th)|
View from Anaheim
For more on the Ducks, be sure to check out Anaheim Calling
The horrid start to the 2015-16 season for the Ducks is now long forgotten, as a 3-2 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens last night brought the team's winning streak up to nine consecutive games.
Ryan Getzlaf still has yet to enter double digits in goals this season, but his 42 assists - plus the 27 goals from Corey Perry - are more than enough at this point to keep Anaheim's offense ahead of its excellent defense.
At the trade deadline, the Ducks made two incredibly cost-effective additions to try and supplement their offense for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They traded a conditional pick (either second or third) to Buffalo to acquire Jamie McGinn, who has 15 goals and 13 assists on the year and scored in his Ducks debut, and they acquired Brandon Pirri for just a sixth rounder, which is incredible value. Pirri may be injured now, but he has 11 goals this year after a 22 goal season last year.
The stars really seem to be aligning for Anaheim this year. Their offense has woken up, their defense is excellent, their possession numbers are very good, and they're peaking at the right time. If Frederik Andersen and John Gibson can keep pucks out of the net, there's no reason to think the Ducks can't make a deep playoff run.
View from Arizona
If the Ducks are peaking at the right time, the Coyotes are sinking at the wrong time. Arizona has lost six games in a row - which is the longest active streak in the league - and their final one was particularly ignominious 6-0 defeat in Pittsburgh.
That puts Arizona a full eight points behind Colorado and Minnesota for the final Wild Card spot, and with just over a month to go in the regular season, that pretty much means Arizona is done barring an improbable run of good luck.
General Manager Don Maloney seemed to sense that the writing was on the wall, as he made primarily lateral moves at the Trade Deadline. He acquired Sergei Plotnikov from the Penguins and Jiri Sekac off waivers from the Blackhawks, while flipping Mikkel Boedker for Alex Tanguay and a pair of prospects. Nothing world-beating, but also nothing that really sacrifices the future for the present either.
As Arizona drifts closer and closer to Auston Matthews territory, the Coyotes this season will still have plenty to play for. Arizona's core will largely remain intact going into next season, so the next month affords the coaching staff a chance to figure out who fits well with other players, and which restricted and unrestricted free agents ought to be a priority this summer.
Keys to the Game
1. Early Goals - The Coyotes could use a quick restart after a horrible game in Pittsburgh, while Anaheim is coming off of a lengthy win against the Canadiens in Anaheim. Winning the early game makes winning the whole game a lot easier.
2. Be (Legally) Scrappy - Anaheim and Arizona are not friends. Games between the two tend to be lively affairs after the whistle blows. Arizona can get an advantage out of taking key Ducks off their games, but only if doing so doesn't consistently put the Coyotes on the penalty kill.
3. Auditions Are Open - Who is going to be the difference maker for the Coyotes next season? Max Domi, Tobias Rieder, and Anthony Duclair are all favorites to be "the guy" going forward. What will Antoine Vermette's role be? Or Martin Hanzal's? Now is a chance to prove they're all still valuable pieces for the team.
Players to Watch
Max Domi did not make Team North America's preliminary roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. If he wanted to show Peter Chiarelli that he made a mistake leaving Domi off, tonight might be a good night to do it.
One of Anaheim's better defensemen this season, Sami Vatanen is tied for third on the team in points with 34. He's another guy (along with Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm) that Arizona needs to pay attention to from the point.
Chris Stewart and Brandon Pirri remain on injured reserve, while Shawn Horcoff continues to serve a 20 game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. Simon Despres is considered questionable for tonight's game with the flu.
Joe Vitale and Anders Lindback are done for the season, while Mike Smith has resumed skating. Boyd Gordon and Viktor Tikhonov were both taking line rushes in practice yesterday, which means it's possible both return tonight.
Tonight's action begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN 620 AM.