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Coyotes look to break the dull and damaged Sabres

Tonight we get a return of the Battle of the Bottom, as the bottom teams of the Eastern and Western Conferences face off.  

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes are back from a five-game road trip to the Eastern Conference. On that road trip, they managed to get their first win of the season, although probably not in the fashion they had hoped, they still have a lot of work left to do to be a competitive team in the NHL.

View From Buffalo

For more information on Sabres and their preview go to Die By the Blade

Not too long ago the Sabres and Coyotes were engaged in a good old-fashioned tank off with the hopes of drafting Connor McDavid. Neither team got the ultimate prize, but Buffalo did get the better secondary prize by drafting Jack Eichel, who this past offseason ended up signing a lucrative 8-year, $80 million extension. Both teams thought they had taken positive steps towards ending their rebuild, but unfortunately, that hasn’t worked out for either team.

Buffalo has been splitting starting duties between goaltenders Robin Lehner and former Coyote Chad Johnson, although neither has been stellar. Lehner has been the better of the two with a .936 even-strength goals against average compared to Johnsons .878 even strength save percentage. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Lehner hasn’t been great on the penalty kill and has .828 save percentage, but Johnson has a much better .939 save percentage. Both goalies have given up 3 shorthanded goals this season, causing Buffalo to be tied with the New York Islanders for most shorthanded goals against this season.

While the Sabres haven’t scored as many total goals as the Coyotes this season (29 compared to 33) they have been getting a more balanced offense. Keller’s 9 goals lead the Coyotes by a comfortable margin with the next highest player goals being Anthony Duclair’s and Christian Fischer’s 3, whereas the Sabres have two players who have scored 6 goals (Jason Pominville and Evander Kane) and two players who have scored 4 (Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly).

View From Arizona

The Arizona Coyotes have a lot of problems this season, and you get to see most of them in pretty much every game. Last game they were badly outshot for a period (7 to 18 shots on goal in the first), allowed the other team to score after their goals (Detroit scored within two minutes of a Coyotes goal twice), they allowed 5 goals, and they were unable to capitalize on key power-play opportunities.

Thankfully there is some hope. Antti Raanta has been activated from injured reserve and could bring some stability to the crease. Due to an injury, Antti Raanta has been limited to three starts this season, not what you want from the player expected to be your starter for the season. Hopefully, Raanta being back could stabilize the Coyotes goaltending situation and lead to the Coyotes not being dead last in goals against.

Three Questions

What type of goaltending will we get?

The Coyotes have allowed an average of 4.31 goals against per game, which puts them comfortably in dead last in the league. While goaltending isn’t the only thing leading to that number, it has been a big part and the Coyotes are going to need to get better goaltending.

Will the special teams improve?

The Yotes power play has been decent at stretches, both in terms of execution and in terms of raw numbers. At 17.4% they are good enough to be 14th in the league. Unfortunately, their 67.7% puts them dead last in the league, which isn’t conducive to the team winning games.

Can the Yotes win again?

It happened once, it has to happen again. Right?

Players to Watch

Buffalo – Jack Eichel: Eichel’s extension has set his expectations for this season pretty sky high. While it isn’t as much money as the man who was drafted just one spot before him, it is still a lot of money and will make him one of the highest paid players in the NHL when it kicks it.

Arizona – Clayton Keller: Keller was recently named Rookie of the Month by the NHL and has been one of the bright spots in the darkness that is the start of this season. Keller is probably not going to remain a point a game player for the rest of the season, but he has been a consistent source of offense for the team during a rough stretch and is very fun to watch.

Injury Report

Sabres:

Justin Bailey: Bailey is questionable for tonight with a lower-body injury.

Nathan Beaulieu: Beaulieu was placed on IR with an upper-body injury and it is unclear when he will return.

Josh Gorges: Gorges has a lower-body injury with no timeline for return.

Jacob Josefson: Josefson is out indefinitely with a right ankle injury.

Justin Falk: Falk is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury with no timeline for return

Zach Bogosian: Bogosian has a lower-body injury and is anticipated to be out until the middle of November.

Evan Rodrigues: Rodrigues has a hand injury and is out indefinitely.

Coyotes:

Niklas Hjalmarsson: Hjalmarsson missed the game against the Detroit Red Wings with an upper-body injury and is doubtful for tonight’s game.

Jakob Chychrun: Chychrun is still out indefinitely with a knee injury, he is missed by the team.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game will be at 7 pm Arizona time at Gila River Arena. It will be airing on Fox Sports Arizona and AZ Sports 98.7 FM.