The struggle continues.
The Arizona Coyotes found some offense in their last two games, but were unable to walk away with a point against either the Winnipeg Jets or the Minnesota Wild. For the next five games the Desert Dogs will be at home, and they are in a perfect position to start off strong against a struggling, yet tough opponent.
View From Tampa Bay
Last season the Lightning made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in Game 7 to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. This year they are currently outside of a Wild Card spot by three points, although part of that is because of how solid the Eastern Conference is this season.
What many people would expect to be Tampa Bay’s strength of this season, goaltending, has turned out to be a weakness. Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy (who many thought could overtake Bishop this season) do not have very impressive save percentages. Currently Bishop and Vasilevskiy are sitting at .910 and .906 respectively. Granted they have faced fewer shots then Smith has this season, but there is reason to suggest there are some cracks in Tampa Bay.
Despite being on the outside of the playoffs looking in the Lightning are still a very dangerous team. Jonathan Drouin has currently surpassed his goal totals from his last two seasons and Nikita Kucherov is putting up some great numbers. The Lightning are missing some of their biggest pieces for tonight’s game. Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan, and Steven Stamkos are all major players for the Lightning and are all likely to miss tonight’s game.
View From Arizona
While it was definitely not the outcomes that the Coyotes were looking for, there were definitely positives in the Coyotes last two games. Scoring three goals each game is positive compared to the times that they haven’t been able to hit the back of the neck, and the fact that they were able to come back against the Wild is definitely a positive.
There are still plenty of problems with the Yotes game, but if they can put forth that effort every game for sixty minutes a game there is a chance that they can win a few more games this season.
Which Coyotes offense will we see? In the past six games the Coyotes have scored at least three goals three times, in the other three games they had a collective three goals in regulation. The Coyotes seem to be very hot or cold when it comes to goal scoring, and whether or not they are hot or cold tonight could make the difference between a win or a loss.
Who shows up? Earlier this week the team was called out for lacking emotional engagement. And while you can’t begrudge players for being disappointed with the way this season has progressed, they still need to play with some effort.
What will Shane Doan do? All eyes are on Doaner again this season, but not because he’s leading the team in goals again this season. While many people are speculating on potential landing spots for Captain Coyote, he is going to need to show that he is a piece that a contender needs to bring onto their team.
Players to Watch
Lightning - Jonathan Drouin. Drouin has not gone two games without registering a point since December 28th against Montreal. While Drouin’s position with the team looked shakey last season, he seems to have solidified his spot with the team.
Coyotes - Christian Fischer. Fischer got the call up from the Tucson Roadrunners and is likely going to make his NHL debut tonight. The Roadrunners have been playing extremely well this season, and Fischer is a big part of that success, but it remains to be seen how his game can translate to the NHL level.
Victor Hedman is questionable for tonight’s game and has missed the past three games due to illness. J. T. Brown and Brayden Point are both likely to be out until the end of the month with upper body injuries. Ryan Callahan will be out until mid February with a hip injury and Steven Stamkos will be out until at least the middle of March with a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.
Max Domi and Brad Richardson are both on the injured reserve for hand and leg surgery respectively. Martin Hanzal was away with a personal issue, but is likely to return tonight.
Tonights game will be at 6pm Arizona time and will be airing on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.