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Arizona Coyotes face Vancouver Canucks in first game of 2017

New year, new Coyotes?

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s hoping 2017 is kinder to the Arizona Coyotes than 2016 was.

After a three day break, the Coyotes will play their first game in the new year with a road contest against the Vancouver Canucks tonight. The Coyotes will hope to end a seven game losing streak.

View from Arizona

Just because the Coyotes have been off for a few days does not mean there hasn’t been plenty of drama. Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo received a three game suspension for physical abuse of officials, which he will begin serving tonight.

The incident seems an appropriate coda for what has undoubtedly been a frustrating season for the Coyotes, who are now in a battle with the Colorado Avalanche to avoid last place in the Western Conference.

Despite the frustration, there have been smatterings of encouragement in the past couple of weeks. Arizona played the Dallas Stars extremely tough, and got some much needed offense against the New York Rangers. Neither effort was enough to earn a win, but the tools are there. Arizona just needs to figure out how to put them all together.

View from Vancouver

For more on the Vancouver Canucks, check out Nucks Misconduct

Rumors of the demise of the Vancouver Canucks appear to be greatly exaggerated.

After being confined by many to the dustbin of the league this season, the Canucks remain just three points out of the second Wild Card spot in the West, and are currently riding a four game winning streak. It helps a little bit that the Canucks are a conference best 4-1 in the shootout, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Still, being three points out of a playoff spot as a team that seemingly doubled down this summer in an attempt to be competitive is less than ideal. With 36-year olds Daniel and Henrik Sedin both approaching free agency in the next few years, the Canucks have some crucial decisions looming on the horizon. If they can’t put together another run soon, they may not be able to do so with the dynamic Swedish twins still on the roster.

Three Questions

  1. Who will fill the void on the back-end? - Anthony DeAngelo’s absence will affect the Coyotes at both even-strength and on the power play, but it is an opportunity for righties like Connor Murphy or Michael Stone to show that they are not to be taken lightly either. Who will be the go-to guy on the right side?
  2. Who will be the next youngster to score? - Anthony Duclair was the guy against Dallas. Tobias Rieder was the guy against New York. Brendan Perlini was the guy against Calgary. Who will it be tonight?
  3. Can the Coyotes stay focused? - Arizona has played just three games in the last 11 days. The break from the grind of the season is welcome, but debacles versus the Rangers and Flames also suggest a lack of focus. Can the Coyotes clamp down on penalties and kill off the ones they do take?

Players to Watch

Arizona - Alex Goligoski - Goligoski has been on the receiving end of more than a few tough breaks in the defensive zone. Without his preferred defensive partner, he’ll be under an even hotter spotlight than usual.

Vancouver - Bo Horvat - Your goal scoring leader for the Canucks is Horvat, who is on pace to set new career highs in goals, assists, and points this season. At present, Horvat and Brendan Gaunce are the only two Canucks first-round picks since the Sedins on Vancouver’s NHL roster, so Vancouver really needs Horvat while they wait for Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser to develop.

Injury Report

Brad Richardson is out for an indefinite period of time after breaking two bones in his leg against the Canucks earlier this season, while Max Domi remains on injured reserve after undergoing hand surgery. Ryan White has been moved to injured reserve and is not expected to play tonight, while Anthony DeAngelo will not be eligible to return from suspension until January 13th.

The Canucks have Derek Dorsett, Philip Larsen, Erik Gudbranson, and Jannik Hansen on injured reserve, with the first three out indefinitely and Hansen out until early-February at the earliest. Alexandre Burrows received a scratch on his eye that prompted him to sit out a game but is expected to play on Wednesday.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game begins at 8 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.