The Arizona Coyotes are back on the road after an unsuccessful 0-3-0 homestand. The Coyotes are still searching for their first win of the season, and they are going to have a hard time on this road trip as they face off against multiple good teams in the Eastern Conference.
Arizona has not had a good start to the season, with scoring issues being a big part of dropping their last two games. They were shut out by the Islanders on Saturday and held to one goal by the Oilers on Thursday. What made the losses even worse is that neither team had their regular starting goaltender.
The Coyotes are going to need to find a way to generate consistent offense. This will be difficult because they have traded away most of their offensively gifted players, but they will need to find a way to do it. The games will not get any easier from here, and it is tough to win games if you can’t score.
Florida had a reasonably big offseason.
The Seattle Kraken took two players, Alexander Wennberg walked as a free agent after a breakthrough 17-goal 56 games season, and they lost goaltender Chris Driedger, who was taken at the expansion draft.
But it wasn’t all bad for the Panthers. They won the Sam Reinhart lottery, acquiring the 25-year-old for a 2022 first-round pick and goaltender prospect Devon Levi. The pick is lottery-protected, but that probably won’t be necessary given how well the Panthers have started.
The Panthers are almost the polar opposite of the Coyotes to start their season. They have a perfect 5-0-0, having won four games in regulation and one in overtime.
More troublesome for the Coyotes, the Panthers have been winning against good teams. They have beaten both the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 and won against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers.
And unfortunately for the Coyotes, they have won through a combination of consistent offense, solid defense, and goaltending. Only the Penguins have scored more than two goals against the Panthers, with the Islanders, Lightning, and the Avalanche being limited to a single goal and the Flyers managing two.
The Panthers’ strong start can be partially attributed to the revitalization of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Panthers signed Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract in 2019, and in his first year with the Panthers, he finished with a .900 save percentage and a 3.23 goals-against average. He looked better last season, finishing with a .906 save percentage and a 2.91 goals-against average, but this may be the first year of him living up to his contract. He currently has a 1.99 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage.
Joining Bobrovsky this season is 20-year-old Spencer Knight. The young netminder has played only one game this season, a 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Either way, the Coyotes, who are already having trouble scoring, will have a tough time generating offense against the Panthers.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Phil Kessel - The Coyotes do not have a lot of offensive weapons, and their biggest is probably Phil Kessel. Kessel is looking for a trade to a competitor, and the best thing for him, and the team, is for him to get hot and score today.
Florida: Jonathan Huberdeau - Huberdeau had two goals in the Panthers’ last game, a short-handed goal and a power play goal. The Coyotes have struggled on special teams this season, and a player like Huberdeau is going to be very dangerous if the Coyotes aren’t careful.
Arizona: Alex Galchenyuk (upper body), Kyle Capobianco (lower body)
Florida: Anton Lundell (undisclosed), Olli Juolevi (personal), Markus Nutivaara (undisclosed), Noel Acciari (upper body)
Today's game is an early one, starting at 4:00 pm Arizona time. It will air on Bally Sports Arizona and on Arizona Sports 98.7.