For the first time in the 2021-22 NHL season, the Arizona Coyotes will play back-to-back games. Back-to-backs usually are very difficult for teams, but tonight’s will be especially hard given the quality of competition and critical injuries.
The Coyotes have played in seven games this season and have just one point to show for it. To make matters worse, their road trip started with four players, Carter Hutton, Ryan Dzingel, Conor Timmins, and Nick Schmaltz, going down with injuries.
Hutton’s injury is the one most likely to affect the team, and thankfully it appears to be relatively minor. Hutton going down led to the Coyotes calling up Ivan Prosvetov, who was given next to no offensive support from the team in front of him in last night’s 5-1 loss. But with Prosvetov getting the call last night, we will likely see Karel Vejmelka in net for the Yotes tonight.
Vejmelka is playing in his first NHL season, and in five games, he has a 3.15 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
The injuries also provided an opportunity for Barrett Hayton to play in his first game after being called up by the Tucson Roadrunners. Hayton had an assist on the Coyotes’ lone goal of the game and didn’t look too out of place against the Lightning.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes, the problems in last night’s game will not be easily solved. A big issue was simple turnovers, which led to odd-man rushes and scoring opportunities. Teams like the Lightning, and tonight’s opponents, the Washington Capitals, have plenty of offensive weapons that can make you pay for simple mistakes, and the only way to counter that is to play as close to perfect as you can.
The Capitals have been impressive to start the season, winning or getting points in all seven games they’ve played. However, they dropped their last game against the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in overtime and are 4-0-3 on the season.
Washington had a relatively quiet offseason, with little turnover. They traded Brenden Dillon to the Winnipeg Jets for a pair of second-round picks and lost Vitek Vaněček to the Seattle Kraken in the Expansion Draft. The Capitals re-acquired Vaněček a week later, and the 25-year-old Czech netminder has started five games this season and is making a solid case to be the Capital’s starting goaltender.
The Capital’s offense is being led by the usual suspects, with Alex Ovechkin leading in both goals and points. Ovechkin is chasing Wayne Gretzky’s goal record and is on a good pace with eight goals in seven games to start the season.
With Ovechkin on a goal-scoring tear, it’s surprising that the Capital’s power play is 15th and not towards the top of the league. However, this is potentially a good thing for the Coyotes, who have the worst penalty kill in the league by a wide margin.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Lawson Crouse - Crouse had the Coyotes’ lone goal of yesterday’s game, his second of the season. After a rough 2021 season where he was snakebitten, it is good to see Crouse find the back of the net.
Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov - Kuznetsov had a goal in the Capitals’ last game and is second on the team in both goals and points.
Arizona: Nick Schmaltz (undisclosed), Carter Hutton (lower body), Conor Timmins (lower body), Ryan Dzingel (upper body), Alex Galchenyuk (upper body), Kyle Capobianco (lower body)
Washington: Nic Dowd (questionable, lower body), T.J. Oshie (lower body), Nicklas Backstrom (hip)
Tonight's game is another early start with a 4:00 pm start time. It will air on TVAS, Bally Sports Arizona, and ESPN 620AM.