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GDT Game 50: Coyotes face Canucks in a critical division matchup

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The Coyotes have a big game tonight as they face a division rival who is right behind them in the standings.

NHL: SEP 26 Preseason - Coyotes at Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Game Preview

The Arizona Coyotes needed a big game on Tuesday. lt is tempting fate to give points to a division rival, even if that team is likely to miss the playoffs like the Sharks are. And after a three-game losing streak, a struggling opponent offers a perfect opportunity for a win and a reset.

Tuesday’s game featured offense from the biggest Coyotes’ biggest recent acquisitions. Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall both had two goals, with Kessel getting the first two goals of the game, and Hall getting the Coyotes’ third and sixth goal of the evening. Going into tonight’s game Kessel has 11 goals on the season and Hall has 12, and while not the numbers fans would have hoped for they are both hopefully heating up.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Coyotes win was their play in the third period. Despite having a 3-2 lead the Coyotes kept up the pace, even as they continued to rack up goals. Arizona would outshoot the Sharks 14-8 in the third period, and Tyson Nash may have said it best when he said that the Coyotes were playing like the team down two goals.

Adin Hill had a solid game against the Sharks. He earned his second win of the season and looked poised in net. The Coyotes did an excellent job in limiting the shots that he faced and he should be able to handle his time in the NHL until Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta are healthy.

With Tuesday’s win, the Coyotes are back as the lone team on top of the Pacific Division. Both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are back only two points though, and both have played one fewer game than the Coyotes.

This season the Pacific Division has been weird. The teams that everyone expected to dominate have struggled, and the teams that were expected to be on the bubble are leading the pack. And while the Coyotes are one of those teams, right behind them are the Vancouver Canucks.

The Vancouver Canucks didn’t have very expectations going into this season. They were just behind Arizona last year, but few people had them making the playoffs. But the Canucks are proving the critics wrong and are deep in the race to make the playoffs.

Vancouver this season has a good offense (152 goals for, 9th in the league) and an average defense (146 goals against, 17th in the league). Jacob Markstrom has been good this season, and his 2.77 goals-against average and .914 save percentage are consistent with his previous two seasons as a starter.

The Canucks are currently three points back from the Coyotes but have played in two fewer games. As the season comes to an end the Coyotes are not in a position to underestimate the Canucks this season.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Conor Garland - With a goal and two assists, Garland was one of four Coyotes to finish with three points against the Sharks. Garland leas the Coyotes with 16 goals and has a two-game goal streak going.

Vancouver: Elias Pettersson - Pettersson was a bright spot for the Canucks last season, and has been key this season. Pettersson leads the Canucks and has four points in five games.

Injuries

Arizona: Antti Raanta (questionable, lower body), Brad Richardson (lower body), Barrett Hayton (shoulder), Darcy Kuemper (lower body)

Vancouver: Josh Leivo (knee), Brandon Sutter (upper body), Michael Ferland (upper body), Tyler Graovac (lower body)

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game will be at 8:00 pm Arizona time and will air on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and Fox Sports 910 AM.