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Arizona Coyotes play host to surging Ottawa Senators

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The Coyotes have a tall task ahead of playing Kyle Turris and the Sens.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes continue their recent run against Eastern Conference teams by squaring off against the surprising Ottawa Senators in Gila River Arena tonight. The two teams have not seen each other since October.

View from Ottawa

For more on the Ottawa Senators, check out Silver Seven

Ottawa doesn’t get as much attention as its neighboring franchises in Montreal and Toronto, especially with both the Canadiens and Maple Leafs playing well this season. Yet Ottawa is camped pretty firmly in second place in the Atlantic Division; the Senators are four points clear of the Bruins for third place with two games in hand.

The Senators were fairly active at the Trade Deadline as both buyers and sellers; they acquired (and then promptly extended) Alexandre Burrows from the Vancouver Canucks, while trading young forward Curtis Lazar to the Calgary Flames. As a result, the Senators will still finish the season with a first and second round draft pick.

Ottawa’s fortunes this year have been boosted by the stellar performance of Craig Anderson, who is rocking a .931 save percentage. With offensive contributions up front from Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and of course, Kyle Turris, the Senators are a surprisingly aggressive player in the Atlantic Division this season.

View from Arizona

When last the Coyotes played on Sunday evening, the team came up short against the Carolina Hurricanes after a bounce-back performance from Carolina’s Eddie Lack. Between Lack’s great night and the seemingly interminable speculation about the team’s long-term home off the ice, it has not been a great week for the Arizona faithful.

On the happier side, Radim Vrbata is poised to dress in his 1,000th game this evening, of which 493 have come while as a member of the Coyotes. Vrbata is a prime candidate to re-sign this summer with the Coyotes, especially given the decision to retain Vrbata at the Trade Deadline.

Arizona’s injury issues are beginning to mount, which poses a problem given the team’s already weak center depth. How Arizona addresses that problem this season, and heading into the future, is a major question that the team hasn’t quite figured out.

Three Questions

  1. Can the Coyotes create their own goals? - Every team has to be opportunistic, but Arizona has to improve at creating sustained zone pressure that hems opposing teams into their own end. Can they do that tonight?
  2. Which Swede will reign supreme? - Two of the best Swedish defensemen in the NHL will go toe-to-toe tonight. Who will get the last laugh?
  3. Will Turris take over? - Kyle Turris remains a sore spot among Coyotes fans, especially given the team’s lingering problems at center. Will he have a big night tonight in Glendale?

Players to Watch

Ottawa - Erik Karlsson - Your team points leader is Karlsson, with 11 goals and 47 assists. He may not be on a point-per-game pace like last season, but he’s pretty darn close.

Arizona - Oliver Ekman-Larsson - We have officially reached the point of the year that the OEL trade calls begin. But one thing that is not hyperbole is that OEL is having a down year compared to seasons’ past. A big game tonight would be a great way for OEL to kick-start a strong finish to the season.

Injury Report

Ottawa is without Clarke MacArthur with lingering concussion issues. If the rest of the Senators were a video game boss, then their fingers would be their weak spot, with Bobby Ryan, Chris Neil, and Kyle Turris all nursing finger injuries of various severity.

Arizona is without Brad Richardson, Alexander Burmistrov, and Kevin Connauton indefinitely while dealing with various injuries.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.