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Arizona Coyotes face league leading Washington Capitals

The Coyotes have put off playing Washington all season, until now.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Arizona Coyotes Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes have been able to avoid playing the NHL’s best team - the Washington Capitals - right up until tonight, just as Washington is rounding into playoff form. Lovely.

Arizona will play its final road game against the Eastern Conference tonight against a Washington team looking to hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks for the Presidents Trophy and home-ice throughout the playoffs.

View from Arizona

If you were going to pick one image to summarize the Coyotes’ season, it would probably be this one:

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Florida Panthers Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona fell 3-1 to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in a game that featured a thrilling breakaway goal by Tobias Rieder early on, and not much else for the rest of it. The lack of offense was disappointing after a 5-3 win in Tampa Bay just a couple of days earlier.

The feast-or-famine Coyotes will have to find a way to level out the lows next season. Hopefully experience will make it easier for Arizona to create more chances when the game is close. But Thursday’s loss was a frustrating reminder of how slow progress has been all year long.

View from Washington

For more on the Capitals, check out Japers’ Rink

Getting to the playoffs is not the hard part for the Alex Ovechkin Era Washington Capitals.

This year has proven to be no exception, with the Capitals atop the league standings for most of the year and in cruise control down the stretch. And more importantly, the Capitals made a big push on the trade market to bolster their defense with the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues. They somehow managed to do it without parting with some of their better prospects like Jakub Vrana and Ilya Samsonov.

Washington is clearly going for it. But their path is going to be very tough, with at least one of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Columbus Blue Jackets waiting in the wings. Is this finally the year the Capitals get the monkey off of their backs and bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s captial?

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes contain Alex Ovechkin? - Ovi has two goals in his last five games after going ten games without. You know you’re good when a potential 30-30 season is underwhelming. Can the Coyotes deny him his 30th goal tonight?
  2. Will puck luck benefit the Coyotes? - A bizarre play with the net dislodged and a bad bounce on a Jakob Chychrun outlet pass resulted in two goals against on Thursday night. Will Arizona get the bounces this time?
  3. Will Arizona’s youngsters outrun the Caps? - As skilled as Washington’s core is, they aren’t getting any younger. Can the Coyotes use the speed of Tobias Rieder, Max Domi, and Christian Dvorak to their advantage?

Players to Watch

Arizona - Alex Goligoski - Despite his slow start to the season, Goligoski is just seven points behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He has considerably improved in the second half of the season.

Washington - Kevin Shattenkirk - The other big move at the Trade Deadline, Kevin Shattenkirk has six assists in ten games with the Caps.

Injury Report

Alexander Burmistrov and Kevin Connauton remain out indefinitely. Shane Doan has missed four games in a row and remains uncertain for tonight’s game as well.

Washington is skating with a completely healthy roster.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game begins at 4 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.