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Coyotes Game 78 Preview: Coyotes host Capitals in penultimate back-to-back

The Arizona Coyotes' season is rapidly coming to an end and tonight they will face off against a team they haven't seen since October, the Washington Capitals.

NHL: OCT 29 Coyotes at Capitals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Game Preview

The Arizona Coyotes last played the Washington Capitals at the start of the season on October 29th. Arizona had already lost their first six games to start the season, and the Capitals handed them their seventh straight loss with a 2-0 win.

A lot has changed since the start of the season, even though injuries make the results look the same. Things aren’t going to get easier for the Coyotes, but they have shown remarkable resilience in the past two games.

Arizona couldn’t fully complete their comebacks in either of their last two games, but they were able to force Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks to overtime.

Wednesday’s game was a solid effort from goaltender Karel Vejmelka, who has struggled this month. Vejmelka made 36 saves on 40 shots, and the goals he allowed included two rebounds and a puck that deflected in off Nick Schmaltz’s skate.

The Coyotes will be in their second to last back-to-back of the season, so it will be interesting to see who André Tourigny decides to start tonight. Both Karel Vejmelka and Harri Säteri have struggled this month, although Vejmelka has been the steadier hand.

The Washington Capitals aren’t the most dominant team in the NHL, but they have already secured their playoff spot with 97 points in 77 games. They are 17 points higher than the next highest team, the New York Islanders, and have a 6-3-1 record in their last ten games.

Washington played two bottom-feeder teams last week, and they won both games handily. First, the Capitals trounced the Philadelphia Flyers 9-2, and then four days later, they beat the Montréal Canadiens 8-4.

Washington is a high offense team that can make teams like the Coyotes pay. They are eighth in the league in goals scored, thanks in large part to the play of Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin leads the team with 50 goals, and Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson are tied for second with 24 goals.

If there is one area of concern for the Capitals heading into the playoffs, it’s goaltending. They are using Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov for the second year, two relatively young and untested goaltenders. Unfortunately, neither has been especially great this season, and the Capitals are 19th in goals allowed.

Samsonov has had the last two starts against the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche. He has 37 starts this season but has played in 42 games, and he has a 2.99 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage.

Players to Watch

Arizona: Barrett Hayton - Hayton had a goal in the Coyotes’ last game against the Chicago Blackhawks, his ninth of the season. He had gone four games without scoring a goal, and with Clayton Keller out, he may be getting some better ice time to close out the season.

Washington: Alex Ovechkin - Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season with two goals against the Vegas Golden Knights. He comes into tonight riding a three-game goal streak and had a goal and an assist the last time these two teams met.

Injuries

Arizona: Nick Ritchie (questionable, upper body), Jay Beagle (questionable, lower body), Dysin Mayo (questionable, upper body), Clayton Keller (leg), Lawson Crouse (hand), Christian Fischer (lower body), Jakob Chychrun (ankle), Liam O’Brien (upper body), Dmitrij Jaškin (lower body), Conor Timmins (knee)

Washington: Joe Snively (wrist) Carl Hagelin (face)

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game will be at 7:30 pm Arizona time and will air on a special Bally Sports Arizona Extra 2 channel and 98.7 FM.