The going has been a bit rough again for the Arizona Coyotes who are currently riding a six-game losing streak that they hope to snap tonight against the Florida Panthers. Florida has been struggling quite a bit in their own right, so there’s potential for frustrations to be high on both sides in Tuesday’s match-up.
View From Florida
The Panthers are coming off a tough 5-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday, their first time meeting them on the ice this season. While they couldn't seem to solve the Golden Knights’ goalie for the win, Florida’s penalty kill has been perfect in six of their last eight games, which could prove to be a problem for the Coyotes power play.
Arizona will also see a few familiar faces on the enemy side, with well-loved ex-Coyote Radim Vrbata returning to Glendale as a member of Panthers along with Keith Yandle and Jamie McGinn (part of the Jason Demers trade). No official word yet on the projected line-up for the Panthers, but odds are there will be some warm-ups greetings exchanged between these guys and some of the Coyotes players from across the red line.
View From Arizona
With even more rookies and youngsters on the roster this year (including call-ups) than last year, the Coyotes are looking younger than ever. Call-up Nick Merkley has joined the Coyotes’ young ranks which could add some much-needed firepower. Arizona has been struggling to consistently find the back of the net, with a total of just 7 goals in the last 7 games.
Before Merkley’s steady linemate Dylan Strome was called up, both were dominating the AHL in points and goals, a force to be reckoned with. The option for Tocchet to put them together with another talented winger could be a potentially lethal plan to add some much-needed life to Arizona’s roster.
With the NHL Holiday Roster Freeze going into effect tonight until December 28th, Arizona will be rolling with their young guns lineup for the next 9 days. For more information, CapFriendly has provided a handy tweet thread explaining how it works and answered questions about it.
Nick Merkley NHL debut? According to Monday’s practice lines, it looks like Merkley could be making his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Panthers. He skated on a line with Zac Rinaldo and Christian Dvorak.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson out? Coach Tocchet announced that Ekman-Larsson missed practice on Monday due to “illness” and is “probable” to play Tuesday night against the Panthers. If the Coyotes are without their top defenseman, how do the D-pairs shake out?
Will the Coyotes win? While I don’t think any of us expected to be leading the league this season, we also didn’t expect to be riding the bottom of the standings again. A much-needed win to snap this losing streak would do a lot of good to propel the team into a winning mindset going into the holiday break.
Players to Watch
Arizona - Nick Merkley: With Merkley expected to make his NHL debut tonight, look out for this firey ball of energy in a small package. Though he had a rough year or two in Junior due to injury, the AHL has been more than kind to Merkley and has been amazing for his development. His call-up is a well-deserved one. While he may not make an immediate impact, he should blend well into the team’s chemistry of young guys.
Florida - Aleksander Barkov: Before his tough night against the Golden Knights on Sunday, Barkov was riding a six-game point streak. The 22-year-old Finnish center has 30 points (11G, 19A) in 32 games played so far this season.
Zac Rinaldo is still a game-time decision after missing Thursday’s game with an illness but did skate with the team on Monday on a line with Dvorak and Merkley.
Niklas Hjalmarsson is still out with an upper-body injury and is on IR.
Roberto Luongo is still on IR for "an extended period of time" with a “lower-body injury” that is believed to be a groin injury that he suffered on December 4th.
Puck drop is at 7 PM AZ time on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Go and can be heard with amazing commentary by Heeter and Biz on ESPN AM620.