The Coyotes have won more games in their last three matchups than they did over the previous twenty games. After hanging with Montreal and edging them out 5-4 (in regulation no less), the Coyotes took Ottawa to overtime and stole two points on an Anthony Duclair hat trick.
Riding a season-high 2 game win streak into Toronto, Arizona thoroughly outworked the Leafs to the tune of a 4-1 win, although a controversial goal reversal on Arizona’s own Auston Matthews drew the ire of Toronto’s media and fans alike.
None the less, Arizona now has 5 total wins and finally stride back to Arizona with some wind in their sails. They finally have NHL-average goaltending showing up and they’ve begun to see more production from players outside of Clayton Keller.
Leading into their Wednesday evening affair, Arizona has begun to get healthy and discover the expectations we all had to start the season, but will their success in Canada translate to their first win against a conference opponent?
View From San Jose
San Jose has been off-and-on so far this season, with streak a streak of 4 wins at the end of October and into November as well as a current 3 game slide. Sitting at 5th in the Pacific, San Jose has been battling injuries to critical players Paul Martin and Melker Karlsson. Additionally, Barclay Goodrow was placed on the IR after their game with Florida last week.
Joel Ward and Jannick Hansen just jumped back into the lineup after injury stints.
Through most of this early season, San Jose’s goal differential is as up and down as their record, and top defenseman Brent Burns has the lowest +/- score on the team at -7.
View From Arizona
Arizona is riding it’s highest high of the season, with three wins in a row capped off by a well-deserved win against the ‘contending’ Maple Leafs.
A hat trick from Anthony Duclair in Ottawa was icing on the cake as Arizona went 3-0 on an Eastern Canadian roadie that may have finally jump-started the rather unlucky Coyotes. During much of the season’s start, Arizona was competitive in most games, yet could never find the right chemistry or luck.
Goals came from every level of the club, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tobias Rieder, Max Domi, Christian Fischer and others joined in with Duclair to finally capitalize on Rick Tocchet’s vision for this team and demonstrate what this team could become capable of.
- Can Arizona keep up the fight? The Coyotes have had, perhaps, the worst schedule in hockey thus far. They’ve played fifteen of their twenty-five games on the road, with ten of those fifteen against Eastern Conference opponents. The Coyotes finally showed up for one of those trips, but it remains to be seen how they’ll respond to the newfound success when returning to their friendly confines.
- How much will the injury dynamics influence this game? Arizona has been slowly getting healthier and healthier; Antti Raanta has come back and looked good and Jakob Chychrun is skating again and may play Wednesday. Conversely, San Jose is stuck in the middle of the division thanks to some poor defense and untimely injuries. A big question leading up to this is how the injuries and soft spots between the two clubs will match up, particularly if the Coyotes speed up front can take advantage of a short-handed Sharks defense.
- Who’s going to cover Clayton Keller? Clayton Keller regained the helm in rookie scoring after a two assist performance in Toronto. The question for San Jose is how to cover him, and how does that affect their line balance in covering Arizona’s other weapons. With Anthony Duclair already surpassing his goals mark from last season, Tobias Rieder finally warming to the task and Brendan Perlini sniping even more consistently, Arizona is beginning to have a greater variety of talent to threaten opponents and that could prove problematic for the streaky Sharks.
Players to Watch
Arizona’s player to watch is Antti Raanta, who’s finally coming into the form many expected him to assume a month ago. Should Raanta show up Wednesday, his dynamic lateral movement and clutch saves could carry Arizona closer to .500 but if he regresses back to his pre-roadtrip self, it could be a long night in the desert.
For San Jose, the Shark to notice is Logan Couture, who leads the team in points at 16 (10g/6a). After Patrick Marleau departed for Ontario over the offseason, the Sharks needed someone to step in and help pick up slack. The 28 year-old appears to have taken to the task, with the next closest point producer for San Jose, Tomas Hertl, coming in five points behind Couture. Coyotes fans should take notice at who head coach Rick Tocchet uses to cover Couture, and use it as a measure for how well Arizona can compete with their division’s top players.
San Jose injuries: F Barclay Goodrow (UBI-IR), F Melker Karlsson (UBI-day to day), D Paul Martin (Ankle-IR)
Arizona injuries: D Jakob Chychrun (Knee-IR, potentially to day-to-day or available by Wednesday’s game)
San Jose and Arizona’s first meeting of the season can be seen Fox Sports Arizona Plus and heard on ESPN 620AM at 7pm Arizona local time.