The Arizona Coyotes do not have an easy schedule this week. Tonight, they are playing in the second game of a back-to-back on the road against two more formidable division rivals. But surprisingly, the Coyotes will be going into tonight’s game with momentum, having beaten the Winnipeg Jets last night 1-0.
Arizona won not because they were the better team, they won because they got better goaltending. Karel Vejmelka was in net for the Coyotes and was perfect, stopping all 46 shots that the Jets threw at him.
The Coyotes’ skaters did a decent enough job preventing rebounds, but that was about it. Arizona could barely make it through the neutral zone leading to them recording just 15 shots on goal, and they took way too many penalties in the third period.
Arizona would be short-handed for eight minutes and eight seconds of the final period. Early on, they took two penalties almost back-to-back, and a double minor for high sticking with five minutes and eight seconds left gave the Jets a prime chance to tie it up. Vejmelka had to make seven saves on the penalty kill, which is just ridiculously high.
Since playing the Coyotes earlier this month, the Wild’s record has been a bit of a mixed bag at 5-3-1. However, they come into tonight’s game riding a three-game win streak, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, and New Jersey Devils.
While the 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning is impressive, the Devils aren’t a great team, and they managed to push the Wild to the shoot-out. In that same vein, the 7-1 win over the Jets certainly looks impressive, but as Coyotes fans learned last night, the Jets are in a bit of a slump.
That’s not to say that the Coyotes should be underestimating the Wild tonight. While Devils aren’t good, and the Jets are currently having scoring problems, they are both better than the Desert Dogs. The Coyotes also played last night and had to travel, while the Wild have been at home since the end of last week and had a day off to rest.
Luckily for the Coyotes, the Wild also do not have that good a power play. Minnesota’s power play is currently ranked 24th in the league, better than the Coyotes’ 27th, but not by much. That may come in handy because if last night was any indication, the Coyotes might soon be returning to their undisciplined ways.
Minnesota’s penalty kill is undoubtedly better but still fairly mediocre. They are currently ranked 17th in the NHL, much better than the Coyotes’ 29th ranked kill. Either way, the Wild have the advantage on special teams, so the Coyotes will want to be careful tonight.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Antoine Roussel - Roussel had the Coyotes’ lone goal last night when he crashed the net and put home a centering pass from Loui Eriksson. The Coyotes’ top producers will occasionally go cold, and when that happens, they need supporting players like Roussel to step up.
Minnesota: Ryan Hartman - Hartman surprisingly leads the Wild in goals with 12 and comes into tonight riding a three-game goal streak. Hartman hit 19 goals for the first time in his first full season with the Chicago Blackhawks, and he is currently on pace for hitting that plateau for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
Arizona: Jay Beagle (lower body), Dmitrij Jaškin (lower body), Nick Schmaltz (upper body), Carter Hutton (lower body), Conor Timmins (knee)
Minnesota: Mats Zuccarello (questionable, undisclosed), Jared Spurgeon (lower body)
Tonight’s game will be another early start with puck drop at 6:00 pm Arizona time. It will air on Bally Sports Arizona and 620 AM.