The Arizona Coyotes are back in action tonight against a team they haven’t seen in over a year, the Edmonton Oilers. The last time these two teams met was February 4th, 2020, which saw the Coyotes emerge victorious with a 3-0 win.
A lot has changed since that last meeting. Three of the five players who registered points in that game (Taylor Hall, Conor Garland, and Christian Dvorak) are no longer with the team. However, it was a pretty good game for the two that are still with the team, Lawson Crouse had a shorthanded goal and a primary assist on Dvorak’s goal, and Jakob Chychrun had an assist.
Unfortunately, the Coyotes have not had as much success this season. Arizona has dropped three straight to start the season, including a 7-4 loss on Monday against the St. Louis Blues.
Carter Hutton gets a lot of blame for his two losses, which is somewhat unfair. It is a goaltender’s job to keep the other team from scoring, and often that requires making saves you wouldn’t be expected to, but the Thunder Bay, ON native had no support in front of him for those fateful five minutes.
Either way, it will be Karel Vejmelka’s crease tonight. Vejmelka looked great in his North American debut against the Buffalo Sabres and his brief appearance after Hutton was pulled. He will definitely have his work cut out for him tonight against a very tough Edmonton Oilers.
Also back tonight for the Coyotes, Russian forward Dmitrij Jaškin. Jaškin has been dealing with an injury from the offseason, which could explain the slow start for the player who won last season’s KHL Regular Season MVP Award.
A big part of the Oiler’s winning record has been their offense led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Both have eight points in three games and are consistently the most dangerous players on the ice. McDavid had an astonishing 105 points in 56 games last season, and with an entire 82 game season this year, he may very well hit the 150 point mark.
But the Oilers are going to have a significant weakness going into tonight’s game, goaltending. Veteran goaltender and former Coyote Mike Smith was placed on LTIR yesterday and is expected to miss at least a week.
Smith has started all three Edmonton games, and he was another big part of the Oilers’ success. He has a 3.08 goals-against average, and a .920 save percentage, having stopped 92 of 100 shots.
Instead of Smith, it looks like the Oilers will be going with Finnish goaltender Mikko Koskinen. This will be Koskinen’s fourth year with the Oilers, a tenure that has seen a fair amount of ups and downs. Last season he played 26 games and finished with a 3.17 goals-against average, a .899 save percentage, and a 13-13-0 record.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Lawson Crouse - Crouse had a goal in the Coyotes’ last game, his first of the season, and was third among forwards in time on ice. He looked great in preseason, and it would be nice if he could carry that success into the regular season.
Edmonton: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nugent-Hopkins has been with the Oilers since being drafted, and with two assists in the Oilers’ last game, he has three points in three games.
Arizona: Alex Galchenyuk (upper body), Kyle Capobianco (lower body)
Edmonton: Alex Stalock (heart), Dmitri Samorukov (jaw), Dylan Holloway (wrist), Mike Smith (leg), Josh Archibald (myocarditis)
Tonight’s game will be at Gila River Arena at 7:00 pm Arizona time. It will air on SN360, SNW, Bally Sports Arizona, and Arizona Sports 98.7.