Still winless, the Coyotes aim to get off the schneid, as the Detroit Red Wings come to town. The first three games haven’t been kind to the Coyotes, blowing third period leads in the first two games and getting dominated by Vegas on Tuesday night. It’s not the way anybody wants to start their season, but the Coyotes have a chance to right the ship here against the Red Wings.
View from Detroit
Head on over to our friends at Winging It In Motown for the latest on the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit is currently in the middle of a tough rebuild period, but they have started the year off winning two of their first three games. Most of these were due to the play of goaltending duo Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, who have given up only seven goals over three games. Goals will be hard to come by for this team, so these two are going to be the ones keeping them in a lot of games.
It’s hard to get a read on any team this early in the season, but most have Detroit predicted to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They don’t have the forward depth they used to, despite the great play of captain Henrik Zetterberg and promising young players like Anthony Mantha. Their defense has been their downfall the last few years, as they’ve struggled to find any consistency on their blue line. They are currently saddled with big contracts to Niklas Kronwall, Trevor Daley and Danny DeKeyser, so this group is going to be what they have to work with for awhile. It’s led to their team struggling dramatically do move the puck up ice, as the Wings have ranked near the bottom in Score-Adjusted Fenwick last season.
That said, it’s still early in the year and the Wings have won two out of three on the back of goaltending & special teams. Arizona can easily find themselves 0-3-1 if they get into penalty trouble or allow Howard to get in a groove early.
View From Arizona
It’s important to preach patience in a rebuilding season and we still have a lot of hockey left to play. With that in mind, the Coyotes need to start getting some results soon and getting a win at home tonight would be huge. Every team loses and it’s part of the rebuilding process, but the way the Coyotes have looked in the losses has been more concerning. They’ve blown leads, struggled to produce offense and their defense corps has looked completely incapable of moving the puck forward for two-thirds of the game. You can say that it’s due to rust and players not knowing the system yet, but it’s still concerning to see it in action.
We saw some signs of life from them in the third period against the Golden Knights, so if they can play like that for 60, then most fans will come home happy, regardless of the result. Their skilled players were creating, their defensemen were moving the puck up the ice quickly and they looked like a team that can be competitive every night. If they show up in that from tonight, there’s no doubt they can get the two points.
Some roster moves and adjustments have been made since Vegas, as head coach Rick Tocchet has obviously not been happy with how the last game went. Brendan Perlini was placed on IR after sustaining an upper-body injury last game and Emerson Etem was called up from Tucson to take his place. Nick Cousins and Kevin Connauton also missed practice yesterday with injuries and the latter will not play tonight’s game. One would think this is Adam Clendneing’s chance to stick in the lineup, as Connauton struggled mightily in those first two games. On the positive side, Jordan Martinook is back practicing after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury and could play tonight.
Will the defense have a better showing?
Arizona has a good group of defensemen that have played terribly these first three games. It’s a little confusing because on paper, this is a good unit and they’ve struggled to make simple breakout passes. Part of it seems related to how coach Tocchet wants to play, as you’ll notice the forwards quickly sprint to the blue line once the defensemen retrieve the puck. After that, the defensemen quickly send the puck up the ice & the forwards take it from there. It makes sense, as Tocchet wants this team to play fast, but the defensemen aren’t making clean passes, they’re just slamming the puck up the boards or aimlessly into the neutral zone. It’s led to a lot of bad clears, turnovers and some sloppy defensive zone play. Look to see if there’s any improvement here.
Will Raanta have a better game?
Raanta was pulled after allowing four goals on six shots and while it’s hard to pin any of them on him, he took the loss pretty hard. He’s a good goaltender & had a great game against Vegas the last time the Coyotes were at home, so we’ll see how he bounces back.
Who sets the tone?
As bad as the last game was, it was an outlier as far as the Coyotes starting games is concerned. They had leads in their opening two games and scored first in both of them. Getting back to this trend will help set the tone for the rest of the game.
Players To Watch
Arizona – Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Normally, no one should have to tell you to watch OEL, but he hasn’t looked right to start the year and its part of the reason why this defense has struggled so much. He was dealing with an injury coming out of training camp & looks more reluctant to skate with the puck than he usually does. It probably isn’t anything to be greatly concerned about if it’s just an injury because we know what he’s capable of, but it’s worth keeping an eye on here.
Detroit – Martin Frk
He leads the team in goals early in the season and is an interesting story for them. He didn’t make the team last year & was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes. Detroit was able to get him back after Carolina waived him & he’s back looking to stick around in the NHL this year. He’s currently their go-to right hand shot on the power play and was a very good goal-scorer in the minors. He’s had success early on, so the Coyotes will need to respect his shot while playing shorthanded.
Jakob Chychrun: Still on injured reserve after having knee surgery over the off-season. There is word that he might begin skating soon, though.
Zac Rinaldo: Serving the fourth game of a five-game suspension he received two years ago.
Kevin Connauton: Missed practice with an injury and will not play tonight.
Nick Cousins: Dealing with a lower-body injury and is a game-time decision
Jordan Martinook: Could return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two games. Game-time decision
Brendan Perlini: Injured in the first period of the game at Vegas was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
Niklas Kronwall: He missed Detroit’s first three games with a groin injury, but he could play tonight.
Danny DeKeyser: Injured in Tuesday’s game against Dallas and is currently day-to-day.
Johan Franzen: Placed on long-term injured reserve at beginning of the season.
Tonight’s game is at 7:00 PST and will be shown locally on Fox Sports-Arizona and Fox Sports Detroit.