Talk about ugly. The Arizona Coyotes come off one of their worst losses of the season, a 6-1 slaughter at the hands of the Boston Bruins. They've had a day to lick the wounds, and have a date with the equally intimidating Columbus Blue Jackets. But it's not all bad news for the Desert Dogs; help could be on the way.
View From Columbus
For more information on the Blue Jackets and their preview go to The Cannon.
Few teams in the whole league are as complete as the Blue Jackets, who come into Saturday's game winning nine of their last 12. Their last game was a 5-3 win against New Jersey last night, a come-from-behind beatdown. Artemi Panarin notched a ridiculous FIVE assists. It was the offseason acquisition's most explosive showing for his new team yet.
Outside of that, the team has been their usual balanced self. But it all starts in net. Sergei Bobrovsky 2017 is in Vezina form, with his 14-7-1 record, 2.11 goals-against and sterling .929 save-percentage. With Saturday's contest being the second night of a back-to-back, however, the young Joonas Korpisalo could get the nod instead. He's been much more beatable.
View From Arizona
Arizona, on the other hand, has yet to find it's identity to say the least. Compared to the steadiness of the goalie known as "Bob," injuries and poor play have turned the Coyotes net situation into a revolving door. But help is here; Craig Morgan reports that Antti Raanta could be good to start. It's a much-needed return for a team that gave up 6 in its last showing.
Of course, that's only half of Arizona's struggles. Outside of Clayon Keller's phenomenal first few weeks and Oliver Ekman-Larsson's routine amazingness, nothing has really matriculated offensively. Against a team as stingy as the Blue Jackets, that could be a problem.
Is Antti Raanta healthy?
Given Arizona's place in the standings -- and their organizational belief in their number 1 -- there's no need to rush Raanta back into the fold. Even then, in his limited time, Raanta has had stretches of truly great play; his .914 save percentage is well above the league average, especially when you consider how the team has looked in front of different netminders.
What about the blue line in front of him?
Of course, that situation is its problem. Kyle Capobianco's debut on Thursday marks the 11th different defenseman to suit up for Arizona this season. While Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jason Demers have truly meshed as a top pairing, no other pairing has been particularly inspiring. Health is partially to blame vis-a-vis Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Alex Goligoski has performed quite well.
Who steps up on offense?
Of course, with all the turnover in the back half, offensively the puzzle pieces haven't quite come together yet. I expect to see some more mix-and-matching with the lines, but I'll just say it's hard to generate chemistry when things are shifting constantly.
Players to Watch
Anthony Duclair has been one of my favorite Coyotes player to watch this season. He’s been dynamite despite relatively limited ice time, and one of Arizona’s most consistent players at generating offensive chances. I don't think he's far off from having himself a monster run, if given the opportunity.
Great organizations have strong upper-end talent, but remain strong in the pipeline. Columbus is as great an example as it gets; they can match Arizona's Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Sonny Milano in terms of Calder star power. I expect to see some strong plays from one of those two young guns.
Niklas Hjalmarsson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Defenseman Ryan Murray is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Forward Sam Vigneault is day-to-day with a finger injury.
Tonight’s puck drops at 5 p.m. on Fox Sports Arizona+, Fox Sports Go and on the Radio on ESPN 620.