A nine game winless streak is never a good thing, but there might have been a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel for the Arizona Coyotes.
After ending their pointless drought by forcing overtime, the Coyotes will get another shot at getting back in the win column as they take on a struggling New York Islanders team at Gila River Arena tonight.
View from New York
For more on the New York Islanders, check out Lighthouse Hockey
After going 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, the New York Islanders are the definition of a team currently treading water. Unfortunately for them, treading water is not good enough when you are tied for last place in the Eastern Conference. That the Islanders have always been on the verge of becoming a serious threat in the East makes this season even more disappointing.
New York’s erratic season can best be summarized in two key areas. First, Nick Leddy, normally a steadily good defenseman, is struggling mightily; his 5v5 shot attempts percentage is a paltry 43.6% this year, a full 6.4 percentage points worse than last season. Leddy has never been a negative possession player in his entire career, which is troubling. Second, the Islanders finally gave up on their three goalie roster by waiving Jaroslav Halak and demoting him to the AHL. Thomas Greiss has been shouldering most of the load this season, but the three goalie rotation that was really more like two as JF Berube largely rode the pine was another head-scratching decision by Islanders management.
New York is coming off a 2-1 overtime loss in Colorado last night, so they are in roughly the same spot rest wise as the Arizona Coyotes are. Expect to see some tired hockey tonight.
View from Arizona
Arizona finally put an end to their pointless streak by forcing overtime against the Anaheim Ducks last night. Unfortunately, that's not what the game will be remembered for.
Arizona missed out on a chance to win the game in the shootout when Mike Smith bizarrely attempted to play the puck out of his own crease despite having an Anaheim player immediately in front of him. It was one of the stranger plays involving in Mike Smith’s career, and yes, that includes the #BUTTGOAL:
Mike Smith with a turnover of the year candidate in overtime pic.twitter.com/dOJW7HlUqA— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 7, 2017
The mishap overshadowed a much better defensive effort by the Coyotes, to complement a highly opportunistic offense that was aggressive in crashing the net; both of Arizona’s goals against Anaheim came directly in front of the crease. That’s the kind of play Arizona needs more of.
- Can Arizona score first? - The Coyotes did a great job of battling back each time the Ducks scored last night, but their lives would be much easier if they were the team playing with the lead. Can they take advantage of a similarly tired Islanders team?
- Will Arizona keep another sheet clean? - The Coyotes were +1 in the special teams battle last night; they converted on one of their two power plays while killing off all three of Anaheim’s. Can they do it again tonight?
- Can the Coyotes get a solid game in net? - Normally playing a goalie twice in as many nights is not a great idea, but Mike Smith might be better served by not having to sit on a rough loss for an entire week. Will we see him tonight? And regardless of who is in net, can they keep the Coyotes in this one?
Players to Watch
New York - Anders Lee - John Tavares commands the lion’s share of attention on this Islanders roster, but it is Anders Lee who actually leads the team in goals, with 14.
Arizona - Anthony Duclair - Duclair had two assists against the Ducks and rang a shot off the post early in the first period. Even with the goal scoring streak over, he’s still feeling it.
New York has not had Mikhail Grabovski due to lingering concussion symptoms, but are otherwise completely healthy.
Arizona was on the receiving end of a host of injuries to important players last night. On top of their injured reserve list of Brad Richardson, Max Domi, and Ryan White, the Coyotes lost Martin Hanzal, Jakob Chychrun, and Jordan Martinook. All three are listed as questionable tonight. Alexander Burmistrov will not play tonight due to visa issues, while Anthony DeAngelo will not be available due to suspension.
Tonight’s game begins at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.