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Coyotes Preview Game 1: Season opener

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Hockey has returned

San Jose Sharks v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

So it begins.

The 2020-21 season is going to be an unusual one. Covid-19 wiped out the end of the 2019-20 season, causing the post-season to be pushed back. This, in turn, pushed back the start of this season, eliminated the pre-season, and lead to a temporary realignment of the divisions.

During this unusual season, the Arizona Coyotes have added complications. Last season was the first time they made it to the post-season since their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2012. They made it past the Nashville Predators in the play-in round but were quickly eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche in five games.

Fresh off that elimination, the team hired a new General Manager in Bill Armstrong. Previous GM John Chayka left the organization before the start of the post-season, and it is up to Armstrong to decide if the team can keep going as is, or if a rebuild is in order.

The Desert Dogs have changed since the post-season.

Taylor Hall, Brad Richardson, Carl Söderberg, and Vinnie Hinostroza left as free agents, Derek Stepan was traded and Michael Grabner was bought out.

Arizona is hoping to get with addition. Derik Brassard, Drake Caggiula, Frédérik Gauthier, John Hayden, Dryden Hunt, Johan Larsson, and Tyler Pitlick aren't going to be game-changers but they will hopefully be good support players. Many fans complained that opponents took advantage of the Coyotes, and they weren't tough enough to play against, which shouldn't be the case this season.

This season will also be an opportunity for Coyotes' prospects to take the next step.

Barrett Hayton has flirted with being a full-time NHLer in the past, and this looks to be the season he can take that next step.

Also in the team's opening day roster is defenseman Kyle Capobianco. Capobianco has been an interesting prospect, he is great with the Tucson Roadrunners, but hasn't been able to put it together in the NHL. This will hopefully be the year he breaks through and earns his spot with the Desert Dogs.

Sharks Preview

Key Additions: Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Donato, Patrick Marleau, Matt Nieto

Key Subtractions: Joe Thornton, Aaron Dell, Melker Karlsson

2019-20 Finish: 8th in Pacific (29-36-5)

Coyotes’ 2019-20 record: 2-1-0, one game not played

Sister Site: Fear the Fin (@fearthefin)

The Scottsdale Sharks are an interesting team. When they acquired Erik Karlsson it looked like they were set to be a perennial cup contender. Instead, they flamed out and became the bottom feeders of the Pacific.

San Jose did make a move acquiring former-Coyote Devan Dubnyk to help them in net. Dubnyk had a terrible final season with the Minnesota Wild, but in the past has been excellent. Goaltending is expected to be very important in a condensed season, and if Dubnyk can bounce back it could be key for the Sharks.

Like other teams, the Sharks are going to be without a familiar face. Joe Thorton had been with the Sharks since the 2005-06 season when he was traded from the Boston Bruins. Thorton's career appears to be winding down, and he decided to risk it all on another cup run with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

Injuries

Arizona: Lawson Crouse (Covid-19 protocol)

San Jose: Radim Simek (knee), Maxim Letunov (undisclosed)

Puck Drop

Today's game will be in Arizona and will start at 7:00 pm Arizona time. It will air on Fox Sports Arizona and on the radio on Fox Sports 910 AM.