The Arizona Coyotes have a better record than the Pittsburgh Penguins going in to tonight’s game. In 14 games the Coyotes are 7-6-1 while the Penguins are 6-5-3 and have lost five consecutive games. After losing in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers the Coyotes are looking to leave Pennsylvania with at least one win before heading to the nation’s capital to take on the reigning Stanley Cup Champions tomorrow afternoon. This weekend’s back-to-back games are shaping up to be particularly difficult. Arizona is facing the teams that have won the last three cups also starting goalie Antti Raanta will not be able to play in either game. That leaves the team starting either Darcy Kuemper in both games or Hunter Miska may make his NHL debut against a championship caliber team. Notably, Adin Hill, the Roadrunners other starting goalie, is also out with a lower body injury. Miska’s call up means Merrick Madsen is starting in Tucson.
Kuemper won’t be the only back up goalie starting this game the Penguins have decided to start Casey DeSmith, though this may not be the usual backup treatment. DeSmith has played in 8 games this season and earned a .929 save percentage, which beats Matt Murray’s .886 save percentage in 9 games. Additionally according to hockey-reference.com DeSmith is currently in this season’s Top 5 for quality start percentage at .800.
The rest of the Penguins will be looking to snap their losing streak and get back on track. Their top three scorers Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Phil Kessel are still among the best in the league but the team is looking to their depth players to add to the offense. In fact General Manager Jeremy Rutherford has already acknowledged that he’s looking to make changes if the team can’t improve. The Penguins will be looking to make a statement in tonight’s game
Players to Watch:
Arizona: Oliver Ekman-Larsson made a critical error in the last game against the Flyers that led to the game tying goal, he’ll be eager to get redemption. Additionally he has been to known to raise his level of play against the best players in the world.
Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin after being ejected from the Penguins loss against the Capitals he’ll be looking to redeem himself by playing well.
Arizona: Alex Goligoski (lower body) Antti Raanta (IR, lower body), Christian Dvorak (IR, pectoral), Jakob Chychrun (IR, knee)
Pittsburgh: Derick Brassard (lower body), Justin Schultz (IR, fractured leg)
The Coyotes’ best in the league penalty killers will be facing a Top 10 power play for the first time this season. Who scores first?
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