The Arizona Coyotes are facing off against the New Jersey Devils tonight. Like the Coyotes, the Devils weren’t expected to be a playoff team this season, especially since they are in the toughest division in the league. Additionally, the Devils have also iced several rookie talents to fill in for key injuries and inject some youth on the team. Unlike the Coyotes, the Devils are off to hot start with a record of 7-2-0 and are second in their division standings.
View From New Jersey
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The Devils will be playing the second game of a back-to-back tonight, after defeating the Ottawa Senators 5-4 in a shootout last night. Also they have some key players that are injured like Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle and Kyle Palmieri. The good news is that starting goaltender Cory Schneider is expected to return after suffering a lower body injury on October 19.
The really good news is that all four of the Devils rookie players Blake Coleman, Jesper Bratt, Will Butcher and this years’ first overall draft pick Nico Hischier have combined for 25 points. The Devils are playing a much more exciting brand of hockey than they are known for, thanks to the energy the youth have brought to the club and the changes Head Coach John Hynes has implemented. Since taking over in 2015, Hynes’ team hasn’t finished above 20th in the league or 7th in their division. Although it’s still very early in the season, if the Devils can keep the ball rolling this could be the first time they are knocking on the door of the playoffs since losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
View From Arizona
The Coyotes are off to a record breaking season in the worst of ways. After losing to the New York Rangers on Thursday they became the first team in the Post-Original Six era to lose the first 10 games of their season. If they lose another consecutive game they will tie with the 1943-44 Rangers.
The most painful part is that the team is clearly better than their record shows. According to Corsica.hockey, the Coyotes rank 16th in 5-vs-5 shots for per 60 minutes, right above the Washington Capitals and just below the Tampa Bay Lightning. They rank 27th in 5-vs-5 shots against per 60 minutes just above the Vegas Golden Knights and again just below the Lightning. To no one’s surprise the Coyotes are last in the league for goaltending with a total save percentage of 88.55 percent, well below the league average of 91.98 percent. Thankfully, tonight might just be the night that starting goalie Antti Raanta could return to the lineup.
Is the Duke back? Despite roving the lineup Anthony Duclair has quietly started returning to his 2015-16 form. He’s now 5th on the team in points behind the first line (Clayton Keller, Derek Stepan, Max Domi) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He scored two goals against the New York teams, and can hopefully continue his good play in the Tri-State Area.
Will Antti Raanta be back? Head Coach Rick Tocchet noted that Raanta had a good day in practice on Friday but said he won’t make the decision of who will be starting in net until later today.
Can they get a save? Regardless of who is in net it would be nice for the goaltending to occasionally bail out the defensive mistakes being made by a fast playing young team that is adjusting to a new everything. The team doesn’t even need all-star goaltending just league average would be nice.
Players to Watch
Arizona- Anthony Duclair, he’s been playing his way up the lineup and has started to get some of that old magic back even without being on Max Domi’s line. It wouldn’t be shocking if he ended up on the second line tonight.
New Jersey- Will Butcher, the college free agent defender that the Devils signed this summer. He currently leads all of New Jersey’s rookie players with 10 points all from assists.
Arizona Coyotes: Jakob Chychrun, (lower body) has started skating again after his knee surgery, but there is still no timetable for his return.
New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac (upper-body injury), tore a pectoral muscle in training camp and his recovery was expected to take 4-6 months. Kyle Palmieri (lower body) was injured during Sunday’s practice after sliding feet first in to the boards. He is considered day-to-day but not likely for tonight’s game. Brian Boyle (illness) was diagnosed with Chronic myeloid leukemia just before training camp. He’s started practicing with the Devils but was ruled out for this weekend’s games.
Puck drops at 4:00 pm Arizona time and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and the Fox Sports Go App. You can catch the radio call on ESPN 620AM.