The Arizona Coyotes are back in action after a rare moment of rest, having not played since Monday’s 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. Most of the Coyotes’ news in that time has been off-ice drama, but the Desert Dogs are hoping to put that behind them as they host the Florida Panthers tonight in the first game of a back-to-back.
The best thing about the Coyotes’ long break is that it has provided them a chance to recover. The Coyotes have struggled with injuries this season, and tonight should see the return of forwards Jay Beagle and Nick Schmaltz.
Beagle last played for the Coyotes on November 21st in their game against the Los Angeles Kings. Beagle has been held pointless through 19 games, but he serves an important role and has won 59.5% of his faceoffs.
Nick Schmaltz’s return took much longer, and the forward hasn’t played since the last time the Coyotes’ played the Panthers on October 25th. However, PHNX’s Craig Morgan has reported that Schmaltz will play on the wing tonight with Lawson Crouse and Barrett Hayton.
The Panthers have done well since they last met the Coyotes and are currently on the top of the Atlantic Division. They dropped their last game against the St. Louis Blues, but Florida had been riding a three-game win streak before that.
Like the Coyotes, the Panthers should be well-rested tonight. Florida faced the Blues this past Tuesday, where they fell 4-3 in overtime.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes, the Panthers’ offensive has been stellar this season. They are currently second in the league in goals scored per game, behind only the Colorado Avalanche.
Florida’s offense is relatively balanced, with only one player, Aleksander Barkov, registering ten goals. But Sam Bennett and Aaron Ekblad have both scored eight goals, and Jonathan Huberdeau and former-Coyote Anthony Duclair have recorded nine. Luckily for the Coyotes, Florida is missing some offensive weapons, with Duclair out indefinitely and Barkov being questionable for tonight’s game.
This season also seems to be a return to form for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky struggled in his first two seasons with the Panthers, but through 16 games this season, he has a very good 2.41 goals-against average and a 9.20 save percentage.
Surprisingly enough, Florida has struggled on special teams despite the high offense. Florida’s power play is 19th in the NHL, converting 18.2% of the time. Their penalty kill is slightly better at 14th. However, both are better than the Coyotes, so Arizona is probably better off staying disciplined and not taking too many penalties.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Clayton Keller - Keller had a primary assist in the Coyotes’ last game and comes into tonight’s game riding a three-game point streak. The Coyotes need all the offense they can get, and Keller has provided much of that offense.
Florida: Jonathan Huberdeau - Huberdeau has been solid this season and currently leads the Panthers with 30 points. He had a goal in the Panther’s last game against the Blues.
Arizona: Johan Larson (lower body), Dmitrij Jaškin (lower body), Carter Hutton (lower body), Conor Timmins (knee)
Florida: Aleksander Barkov (undisclosed), Anthony Duclair (lower body), Olli Juolevi (undisclosed), Mason Marchment (upper body), Markus Nutivaara (lower body), Noel Acciari (upper body).
Tonight’s game will be at Gila River Arena at 7:00 pm Arizona time and will air on Bally Sports Arizona Plus and 620 AM.