For the first time this season the Arizona Coyotes are on the road facing off against the Dallas Stars. The Coyotes started the last season with a loss, and we all know what happened after that, so the team should be looking to start things off on a good foot this season.
The Arizona roster still have a few question marks. Clayton Keller is currently playing center with newly acquired center Alex Galchenyuk injured. Keller previously played center at Boston University but in his first season with the NHL he primarily played on the wing and was very successful. Galchenyuk was expected to the key to the Coyotes revamped top six so fans will need to wait a bit to see that. Also out are Christian Dvorak (back) and Jakob Chychrun (knee), two significant pieces for the Coyotes’ success.
With injuries there are of course opportunities, Dylan Strome has been trying to find a space on the Coyotes’ roster since being drafted third overall in the 2015 Entry Draft and has a big opportunity to step in with two centers being out. Ilya Lyubushkin, who signed with the Coyotes this past offseason after playing in the KHL, and Jordan Oesterle, who played his first full season with the Chicago Blackhawks after bouncing between the Bakersfield Condors and the Edmonton Oilers, will both have an opportunity to step in and earn a spot on the Coyotes blue line.
The Dallas Stars made a coaching change with Jim Montgomery taking over from Ken Hitchcock. Despite having an impressive roster with a great top line in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov and a solid goaltender with Ben Bishop the Stars have not made the playoffs in the past two seasons.
Dallas didn’t make any huge moves this past offseason, especially compared to the teams in the Pacific Division that made huge slashes. Roman Polak and Blake Comeau are probably the two most well known additions, and will provide some solid depth and a veteran presence. After two seasons with CSKA Moscow Valeri Nichushkin is back with the Stars, although it remains to be seen if he will play tonight as he has a lower body injury. The Stars have also brought in Anton Khudobin to back up Bishop, replacing Kari Lehtonen.
Players to watch
Arizona: Oliver Ekman-Larsson - It’s tough to think of a player who has bigger skates to fill than OEL. Replacing a captain as respected by the fans as Shane Doan is a big ask for anyone, but Oliver Ekman-Larsson can do it. As the new Captain Coyote its Ekman-Larsson’s team to lead now and expectations are high.
Dallas: Jason Spezza - With five 30-plus goal seasons and nine 20-plus goal seasons in his career between the Dallas Stars and the Ottawa Senators its tough to see that Spezza appears to be on the decline. Last season with the Stars he finished with only eight goals and 18 assists, he had his worst season since he was a rookie. Spezza is in the last year of a contract paying him $7.5 million a year and has stated, “I don’t want to just hang around for intangibles and being a good locker room guy. I’m here to produce — that’s what I expect of myself.”
Arizona: Jakob Chychrun (knee), Josh Archibald, (lower body), Alex Galchenyuk (groin), and Christian Dvorak (back).
Dallas: Valeri Nichushkin (questionable - lower body), Stephen Johns (questionable - head), and Martin Hanzal (spine).