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Coyotes Game 12 Preview: Coyotes road trip continues in Buffalo

The Arizona Coyotes face off against the team they saw in the last great tank battle, the Buffalo Sabres.

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NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview

The Arizona Coyotes started their 14-game road trip with some momentum, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Washington Capitals in regulation. It was a crazy game that showed yet again what the Coyotes will do if you let up and do not take them seriously.

The biggest surprise was that the win came without a single power play goal. The Yotes’ power play has been elite this season, but the Capitals did a good job shutting it down. Thankfully, the team got things done 5-on-5 with a goal from Josh Brown and a pair from Nick Ritchie.

Despite the win, the Coyotes hopefully won’t try to repeat all of Saturday’s game. The Coyotes had another rough start taking a penalty just 30 seconds in, the first of three. The Capitals only managed one power play goal, but the ice shifted whenever the Yotes had to kill off a penalty. Even after a successful kill, the Coyotes had trouble getting back into top form, and if they had gone to the box in the third, it might have been a very different game.

But at the end of the day, a win is a win. The Coyotes have come back to have strong third periods a few times already this season, but that was typically after the game was already out of hand. So seeing them put in the effort and get rewarded Saturday with a win this time was fantastic.

The Buffalo Sabres had a relatively quiet offseason, mainly extending players with a few additions. The biggest re-signing was Tage Thompson, who had 38 goals with the Sabres last season and already has seven goals in 12 games. A lot of that came in a massive night against the Detroit Red Wings, where Thompson had three goals and three assists in 17:06.

And so far, things have paid off surprisingly well for the Sabres. They are 7-5-0 through 12 games and are only three points away from second place in the Atlantic Division.

Despite the strong start, the Sabres struggled a bit on their last road trip. The Sabres played a back-to-back against the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning this past Friday and Saturday and dropped both games 5-3.

The Hurricanes and Lightning are two strong teams, so losing to them in a back-to-back on the road isn’t too surprising. More concerning for the Sabres should be that they initially held the lead in those games and gave them up.

The Sabres are surprisingly an offensive powerhouse this season. Buffalo is second in the league in goals per game played with 4.08, and their power play is ranked 12th.

Defensively, things aren’t as good. The Sabres give up far fewer goals than the Coyotes, 3.17 per game played compared to the Coyotes’ 4.09, but the Coyotes aren’t exactly the team you want to measure yourself against. Their penalty kill is also ranked 21st in the league, killing only 76.3% of opponents’ power plays. The Sabres signed former-Coyote Ilya Lyubushkin, who should provide a physical edge on their blue line.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Nick Ritchie - With a pair of goals against the Capitals, Ritchie now leads the Coyotes with six goals and is third in points. Ritchie has been an excellent fit for the Coyotes, and he is doing everything he can to show that the Maple Leafs gave up on him too early.

Buffalo: Casey Mittelstadt - Mittelstadt is off to a slow start with only two goals and six assists in 12 games. He had one of the three Sabres goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Injuries

Arizona: Zack Kassian (questionable, lower body), Conor Timmins (upper body), Nick Schmaltz (upper body), Bryan Little (ear), Andrew Ladd (knee), Jakob Chychrun (wrist)

Buffalo: Rasmus Dahlin (questionable, upper body), Mattias Samuelsson (lower body), Henri Jokiharju (face), Ben Bishop (knee)

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game will be in Buffalo and will air at 5:00 pm on Bally Sports Arizona and ESPN 620AM.