Remember when the Arizona Coyotes beat the Buffalo Sabres at the last minute? It feels like it was only this week.
Tonight the Coyotes play the Sabres in Buffalo just four days after Arizona defeated the Sabres 3-2 in Glendale. This will be the first game the Coyotes play after the NHL Trade Deadline.
View from Arizona
When the Coyotes embarked on this East Coast road-trip, it was an open question what the team would look like when they got home. The answer, perhaps surprisingly, turned out to be “not much different”.
After a major move sending Martin Hanzal and Ryan White to Minnesota, the Coyotes opted not to trade Radim Vrbata, and neither Arizona nor Shane Doan saw a market materialize for the captain’s services. As a result, Arizona’s biggest moves are internal, with Anthony Duclair returning to the Coyotes from an extended stint with the Tucson Roadrunners.
The decision not to trade Vrbata likely bodes well for Arizona’s chances at re-signing the veteran winger, given Vrbata is extremely comfortable playing in Arizona and the Coyotes could use his veteran leadership going forward as the roster gets steadily younger. This year however, Vrbata gives the Coyotes a better chance at playing spoiler for teams vying for postseason position.
View from Buffalo
For more on the Buffalo Sabres, check out Die by the Blade
Surprisingly, the Sabres were even quieter at this year’s Trade Deadline than the Coyotes were; the only deal they made was a deal that sent Daniel Catenacci - who played 11 games with the Sabres in 2015-16 but spent all of this year in the American Hockey League - to the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Mat Bodie, who has never played in the NHL.
Blockbuster moves, indeed.
General Manager Tim Murray was unable to swing deals for pending free agents Dmitri Kulikov and Cody Franson, which means both teams in tonight’s game will look virtually identical to the ones that played on Sunday evening. While technically the Sabres are only six points back of the final Wild Card spot in the East, they would need to leap-frog four teams to get there. And after losing out on at least a point on Sunday in Glendale, it’s very likely another year with no postseason hockey in Buffalo.
- Which players show signs of life? - Arizona has multiple players tonight with something to prove. Vrbata wants a new deal (possibly with Arizona), while youngsters like Anthony DeAngelo, Anthony Duclair, and Teemu Pulkkinen want to figure into the team’s long-term plans. Will they show it tonight?
- Can Mike Smith shake off the rust? - Following two games out of commission with illness, Mike Smith turned in a forgettable performance over 40 minutes in Boston. Can he rebound?
- Will we get any craziness? - The Sabres/Coyotes series has featured clutch goals and butt goals. What will happen tonight?
Players to Watch
Arizona - Anthony Duclair - It is not clear whether Duclair will return tonight or in Carolina over the weekend. He had one goal and seven assists in 16 AHL games this year.
Buffalo - Jack Eichel - Were it not for early season injury issues, Eichel would likely have improved upon his 24 goal, 32 assist rookie campaign, as his points per game pace is better this year (0.88 points per game) than last year (0.69 points per game). You can’t blame him for injuries, but it’s possible Buffalo is right in the thick of the Wild Card battle with Eichel in the lineup all season, as the Sabres went 7-9-5 up until his return at the end of November.
Alexander Burmistrov’s status for tonight is questionable after he went to the hospital following a hard check from Boston’s Colin Miller on Tuesday evening. Brad Richardson is with the team on this road-trip but remains on injured reserve.
The Sabres have William Carrier and Johan Larsson on injured reserve, while Cody McCormick has been out since early 2016 with blood clots.
Tonight’s game begins at 5 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.