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GDT Game 68: Coyotes back on the road

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The Coyotes will begin a key road trip tonight as they face the Canucks.

Arizona Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks

Game Preview

The Arizona Coyotes had a big game on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. They needed two points to stay in the race for a playoff spot. And though things started rough, they got the two points.

Arizona dug themselves into another two-goal hole after in first period of the game. Buffalo would get up early with goals from Marcus Johnsson and Jeff Skinner, and for a team that has struggled to get the third goal, it may have been an insurmountable task to come back.

The Coyotes would come back though, with five unanswered goals in the second and third periods. The Coyotes would get things going early in the second period with goals from Jordan Oesterle and Phil Kessel less than five minutes in. Clayton Keller would get the next two games, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson would put the final nail in the coffin with a short-handed, empty-net goal.

Despite the early two goals given up, Antti Raanta would prove solid against the Sabres. He would make 25 saves on 27 shots, and stopped all six of the Sabres shots on their power play.

The Coyotes had a chance to trade Raanta at the deadline, and games like this show why General Manager John Chayka made the right call. Without Raanta the team may have been tempted to overplay Darcy Kuemper rather than risk putting Adin Hill in net, which could have been potentially disastrous if Kuemper re-injured himself or lost confidence in his play.

Right now the Coyotes are two points out a playoff spot. The Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota are all ahead of them, with only the Jets having played more games than the Coyotes. Tonight’s game will be so important for the Coyotes to keep pace, and limit their opponents from going up in the standings.

The Canucks and the Coyotes have been chasing the same playoff spots for the past few weeks. Vancouver has also had struggles for stretches, including the three-game losing streak they come into tonight’s game riding.

Vancouver is a pretty middle of the pack team. They are 12th in goals for with 211 goals scored over 65 games and are 15th in goals-against having allowed 201 goals. They do have the fourth-best power play, converting 24.4, but a fairly weak penalty kill that is ranked 17th.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Clayton Keller - Keller had two goals and an assist against the Sabres, probably one of the biggest games of his career. The team needs him to play his best hockey for the rest of the season.

Vancouver: Elias Pettersson - Pettersson has been great in his sophomore season in the NHL, having scored 26 goals in 64 games. He had a goal and two assists in the Canucks last game.

Injuries

Arizona: Jakob Chychrun (lower body)

Vancouver: Quinn Hughes (questionable, undisclosed), Tyler Myers (questionable, undisclosed), Jay Beagle (questionable, lower body), Jacob Markstrom (knee), Brock Boeser (ribs), Michael Ferland (concussion), Josh Leivo (knee)

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game will be at 8:30 pm Arizona time and will air on ESPN+, Fox Sports Arizona, and Fox Sports 910 AM.