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Coyotes go for two against Toronto

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Auston Matthews returns home for the second time in his career.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes will be looking for their second win against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. After a well deserved and somewhat controversial win against the Original Six club in late November, the desert dogs are looking to sweep the season series. The Maple Leafs on the other hand will be looking for a bit of revenge, to avoid losing any ground in their playoff race, and to not get swept by the worst team in the league.

Notably this will be the second time in his career that Auston Matthews will be playing in front of the hometown Arizona crowd. Many of whom will cheer as loudly for the Scottsdale native as they will for their own favorite team.

View From Toronto

For more information on the Toronto Maple Leafs and their preview, visit Pension Plan Puppets.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be playing their first game since the league wide holiday break. The team should be well rested but there’s also a chance they could be a bit rusty. In fact Leafs’ beat reporter Kristen Shelton noted that Head Coach Mike Babcock was urging his club to pick up the pace during Wednesday’s afternoon practice at Gila River Arena.

The Maple Leafs are trying to hold on to the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with the Montreal Canadiens only 9 points behind. It is unlikely that any team in the Atlantic will be able to wrestle away a wildcard spot from a Metropolitan Division team. There are currently 7 Metro teams with higher point totals than the Canadiens who are 4th in the Atlantic. Every point is crucial for the Maple Leafs to maintain their playoff spot and perhaps even overtake the Boston Bruins who have the same number of points but with games in hand.

View From Arizona

The Coyotes are heading into this game after a much needed redemption win against the Colorado Avalanche. The team played their best game of the season against the Washington Capitals on December 21, then played one of their worst games against the Avalanche on the very next night. Last night’s win against the Avalanche has put the team back on track. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of the club leaves fans wondering which team is going to show on any given night.

This marks the last home game of 2017 and the 40th game of the season for the Coyotes. Consistency is something that fans, management and players should be looking for as the team turns the page on the second half of the season and the New Year.

Three Questions

Can the Coyotes win the second game of a back-to-back?

So far this season the answer hasn’t been good for the team. The Coyotes have played in 5 back-to-back games and have lost the second game all 5 times.

Will Toronto underestimate the Coyotes again?

After their last meeting much of the media surrounding the game focused on how poorly the Maple Leafs played rather than give any credit to the worst team in the league. Will the dynamic Maple Leafs show up?

Which Coyotes team will show up?

The hardest part in rooting for the Coyotes is that fans never know which team they’re going to get. The one that kept the Capitals to only 17 total shots on goal? Or the team that let Avalanche score three goals in less than 5 minutes? Who shows up tonight?

Players to Watch

Arizona: Clayton Keller - The Coyotes rookie sensation has been heating back up with a 6-game point streak heading in to tonight’s game. If he earns a point against the Leafs he will tie his longest career point streak at 7 games.

Toronto: Auston Matthews - Despite missing 6 games in the last few weeks with a concussion, Matthews is still on top for the Leafs in scoring with 28 points.

Injury Report

Arizona:

Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) is still on the Injured Reserve with no timeline yet for his return.

Brad Richardson (upper body) did not play last night against the Colorado Avalanche and it was reported that he would miss the next two games at least.

Zac Rinaldo (suspended) will be serving the second of his 6-game suspension for punching an unsuspecting opponent during the game against the Avalanche on December 23.

Toronto:

Nikita Zaitsev (lower body) was placed on the Injured Reserve on December 17 and was expected to be out for at least two weeks.

Nikita Soshnikov (lower body) was added to the Injured Reserve on December 12 and it is unclear when he will return.

Puck Drop

Puck drop is at 7 p.m. AZ time on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Go. You can also hear the call by ‘Heeter and Biz’ on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.