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Coyotes Game 1 Preview: Blue Jackets host Coyotes for first game of 2021-22 season

The regular season is officially underway today as the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Arizona Coyotes.

Arizona Coyotes v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Game Preview

The 2021-22 season is officially underway, with the Arizona Coyotes playing their first game of the season tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

These two teams haven’t met since December 3, 2019, a game that saw the Coyotes pull off a 4-2 win, with Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, Lawson Crouse, and Carl Söderberg.

A lot has changed since that matchup. Both teams have new coaches, Brad Larsen for the Blue Jackets and André Tourigny for the Coyotes, and both teams have had substantial roster shakeups as both teams traded veterans for picks to jumpstart their rebuilds.

For the Coyotes, that meant saying goodbye to captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, and goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill. On the other hand, the Blue Jackets said goodbye to Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson.

Arizona had a surprisingly successful pre-season, winning all of their games except for a 6-3 loss to the Dallas Stars at the Kraft Hockeyville USA game. The Coyotes didn’t face the top talent in the league, playing both the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks twice, but they did beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 last Thursday.

The Blue Jackets had a mixed pre-season and finished with a 4-2-2 record. Two of those wins came against teams also expected to finish at the bottom of the league, the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings, but they also have wins against better teams like the St. Louis Blues and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Neither team is expected to do well this season, and it would be a surprise if either team made the playoffs. However, both teams are still in the early stages of rebuilds, and things will likely get worse before they get better.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Jakob Chychrun - Chychrun is the Coyotes' undisputed star player and was second on the team in goals (18) and points (41). Going into the rebuild Chychrun was the team's only untouchable player, and he will likely be a major part of the franchise moving forward.

Columbus: Oliver Bjorkstrand - Bjorkstrand has been with the Columbus organization since being drafted by 89th overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He came into his own during the 2018-19 season and has been on pace for 20 goals over 82 games for the past three seasons.

Injuries

Arizona: Alex Galchenyuk (upper body), Kyle Capobianco (lower body)

Columbus: Max Domi (questionable, shoulder)

Puck Drop

Tonight's game will be an early one, with puck drop at 4:00 pm Arizona time. The game will air on Ballysports Arizona and on Arizona Sports 98.7.