This year’s word of the season is ‘crumble’; during the course of the season, everything seems to have been falling apart.
The Coyotes build a formidable defensive group in the offseason and it’s crumbled so far. They start out many of their first two periods in games strong but have blown leads in the third more than any time in the team’s recent history.
This team is on the verge of putting some pieces together most nights, yet there is always something that undoes them.
So at this point in the season, the crumbling doesn’t matter beyond measuring the growth of players late in a game. So in a mid-January matchup against San Jose, the Coyotes walk in searching for answers on how to finish, and then where to go from there rather than discussing how to extend their season beyond April.
View From San Jose
After fighting back to force and eventually win in overtime against the Coyotes over the weekend, San Jose is looking to pace the playoff pack with another win. Sitting at 52 points, San Jose is first in line out of the playoffs looking in and with a win over Arizona, they have the opportunity to jump back into the picture or at least keep pace.
Staff-wise, San Jose made a noticeable move since they last played the Coyotes a few days ago, waiving veteran defenseman Paul Martin. Having only played three games so far this season due to injury, AHL call-ups seem to have forced Martin and his remaining 2 year, 4.85 million dollar contract out of the full-time lineup. And with that cap hit, it’s unlikely any team claims Martin from waivers despite his Stanley Cup experience.
View From Arizona
Arizona hasn’t been quiet either. Sitting at the bottom of the standings, this team is playing for development. Clayton Keller is still having a stellar season, although slower now than at seasons open. Christian Fischer and Christian Dvorak look to be coming along while Jakob Chychrun has consistently looked like he is evolving into one of the franchise’s top defensemen for years to come.
Yet not all has been bright. Anthony Duclair was traded to Chicago last week for Richard Panik. While Panik seems to be building chemistry with Derek Stepan and Brendan Perlini, Duclair has been airing his dirty laundry to the Chicago media about his time in Arizona.
Combined with the bad news looks, the media itself seems to be running with the Coyotes struggles in claiming that nearly every defenseman is being shopped. Realistically, one or two may go, but shipping out nearly every semi-effective blueliner seems far-fetched.
Regardless, as we approach the deadline, expect to see some people moved but surely not everyone.
- Will Antti Raanta be the difference? Scott Wedgewood hung with the Sharks as they pelted him in the last meeting, but buried in the loss is the fact that San Jose yanked their starter after three goals on six shots. If Raanta can hold down the fort, Arizona may get a bounce-back game.
- Can the Coyotes find third-period strength? As a young team, the Coyotes are still learning to play a complete game in the NHL. After crumbling late again, the Coyotes have had a few days to recharge. So if the Coyotes carry a lead late, it will be critical to see if they respond to their third-period struggles from last week.
- Will rest matter? This matchup isn’t a back-to-back for one of the teams. San Jose played in Los Angeles last night, winning 4-1 and will be playing back-to-back games on the road. Arizona is rested, not having played since San Jose, so it will be interesting to see if weary Shark legs have any play late in the game.
Players to Watch
Arizona: F Richard Panik - Panik was the piece brought back to Arizona for Duclair, and he’s had an immediate effect on the team, giving Perlini and Stepan a line-mate that they appear comfortable with. Watch for him to continue settling in against a tired San Jose team.
San Jose: F Mikkel Boedker - Boedker has been widely considered the biggest free agent bust of recent Sharks memory, earning a 4 million contract running through 2020. San Jose would love to move Boedker at the deadline, but if he can start to warm up against his old team, that may not need to happen.
Puck drop is 7:00 pm AZ from Glendale and can be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or heard on ESPN Phoenix 620AM.