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Arizona Coyotes return from bye week to face Winnipeg Jets

Some rest for the weary as the Coyotes got a much deserved five day break last week.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes haven’t played a lot of hockey in the past couple of weeks. Here’s hoping that time off has served the team well.

Tonight the Coyotes return after a five day respite to play the Winnipeg Jets. Arizona will attempt to string together consecutive wins for the first time since December 13-15.

View from Winnipeg

For more on the Winnipeg Jets, check out Arctic Ice Hockey

Winnipeg’s dwindling playoff hopes suffered a body-blow last week, when star rookie winger Patrik Laine went down with a concussion after being on the receiving end of a legal - if painful - hit from Buffalo’s Jake McCabe. That the hit was legal is likely of scant consolation to the Jets, who lost their top scorer for the foreseeable future.

Winnipeg’s offense is more than just Patrik Laine however. Their top point producer is Mark Scheifele, who is just a goal away from recording his second consecutive 20-20 season. And right behind him is fellow youngster Nikolaj Ehlers, who has 38 points this season.

The biggest question, as usual, is whether Winnipeg’s goaltending can hold up without an explosive offense in front of it; Connor Hellebuyck has been the starter, but only has a .910 save percentage, good enough for 19th among 22 goaltenders with 25 starts or more. Michael Hutchinson has not been any better, with a .890 save percentage in 17 appearances.

The Jets have a tremendous amount of offensive talent that will take them a long way. But the next step towards becoming a consistent playoff team is going to be figuring out their goaltending problems and shoring up their defense. If they can do those two things, their crop of young forwards will be a force to be reckoned with in the Central Division.

View from Arizona

Arizona has played just three games since the new year. They have points in two of them. All things considered, that’s not bad.

The Coyotes headed into their bye week with a gutsy 2-1 shootout win over the New York Islanders at home last Saturday night. Louis Domingue turned in a stellar performance to get the Coyotes the win, their first since a victory in Toronto on December 15th.

Mike Smith - Arizona’s All-Star selection - will likely be back in net for tonight’s affair. He will do so in front of a defense that has strung together a couple of decent performances in 2017. Whether the offense can do enough to lift Arizona’s beleaguered goaltenders remains an open question.

Three Questions

  1. Can the defense keep the game close? - Arizona has conceded seven goals in its last three games. That’s enough for the offense to get a win by scoring just three, but...
  2. Can the offense do...anything? - Arizona has scored just three goals in regulation over that same stretch. They need more production, and they need it badly.
  3. Will Arizona’s penalty kill keep working? - Arizona kept the Islanders and Ducks from scoring with the man advantage, a welcome change. They will need to continue to be good gto keep the team in it.

Players to Watch

Winnipeg - Dustin Byfuglien - By his standards, Byfuglien is having a less than stellar year on offense. He has only six goals this year, compared to 19 the year before. His shooting percentage is way off of his career average, so it should rebound. But whether or not it does so this season is an open question.

Arizona - Brendan Perlini - Perlini scored the tying goal against the Islanders on Saturday, and got one game in with the Tucson Roadrunners during the bye week. He recorded a hat trick. When Perlini is feeling it, he’s feeling it.

Injury Report

Apart from Laine, Winnipeg will not have Marko Dano until March, while Tyler Myers remains out indefinitely. Ben Chariot is considered questionable for tonight’s game due to illness.

Brad Richardson, Max Domi, and Ryan White all remain on injured reserve indefinitely, while Jordan Martinook is considered questionable. Alexander Burmistrov will likely remain out while dealing with visa issues, while Martin Hanzal is probable for tonight’s game.

Puck Drop

Puck drop is at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.