The Arizona Coyotes can not catch a break. The Coyotes followed up a bad four-game road with a bad three-game homestand and have now lost their last seven games.
And not only have the Coyotes been losing games, but those losses are coming against their fellow bottom-feeders. The Coyotes lost to the San Jose Sharks and the Ottawa Senators in their last two matchups, two of the worst teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The Coyotes’ last game wasn’t their worst, but it had the potential to be it. Things started to go downhill quickly when Clayton Keller took a five-minute major and a game misconduct for cross-checking Erik Brannstrom in the throat, getting tossed from the game midway through the first period. It was a dangerous play, and Keller was fined $5,000, but he won’t miss any games.
But the dark clouds aren’t wholly without silver linings. The Coyotes’ last game may have been bad, but at least the Desert Dogs didn’t go down without a fight.
Arizona losing their best player should have been the end, but the Coyotes kept fighting. They got within one multiple times but couldn’t complete the comeback, and the Senators won 5-3. However, if they can find a way to show that dedication and drive for a full 60 minutes, they may finally break the losing streak and win their first game of 2023.
While the Coyotes have been struggling at the bottom of the standings, the Wild have been doing okay. They are comfortably in third place, seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars above them, and five points ahead of the St. Louis Blues below them.
Minnesota is 2-1-2 in the month of January, with wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders. They also took the Buffalo Sabres to overtime and the New York Rangers to the shootout but fell against both clubs.
The Wild don’t have the best offense in the NHL, they are ranked 18th in goals scored per game with 3.15, but they have a few heavy hitters. Kirill Kaprizov leads the offense with 25 goals and 51 points in 41 games, but Mats Zuccarello is also a point-per-game player with 43 points in 39 games. It takes a drop from there, but Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy still have more points than any Coyote not named Clayton Keller.
Where the Wild really excels is their goaltending. Marc-André Fleury has gotten the majority of the starts this season and has a 2.93 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. Backing him up is Filip Gustavsson, who has an impressive 2.17 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in 17 games. Together, the Wild have allowed the tenth fewest goals per game with 2.80.
If the Coyotes want to have any chance tonight, they need to take the Wild by surprise. The Coyotes should be the hungrier team, and the Wild may overlook the lowly Desert Dogs. Tonight seems like the perfect trap situation for the Coyotes, and if they can start with a strong push and get an early lead, they may be able to control the game’s pace.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Barrett Hayton - It is hard to overstate how far Barrett Hayton has come since the beginning of the year. He seems to have found his grove and comes into tonight’s game riding a three-game goal streak with five points in his last five games.
Minnesota: Mats Zuccarello - Zuccarello had two assists in his last game and has three points in his previous two. He was held off the scoresheet the last time he played against the Coyotes, and the Coyotes must do that again tonight.
Arizona: Matias Maccelli (lower body), Liam O’Brien (upper body), Bryan Little (ear), Andrew Ladd (knee)
Tonight’s game will be at 6:00 pm Arizona time and will air on Bally Sports Arizona and on 98.7 FM.