The Arizona Coyotes returned from the All-Star break rested and ready to go. After weeks of struggling, the Coyotes finally started to look competitive as they approached the week off. They carried that momentum into Monday night’s game, beating the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in regulation.
Arizona didn’t play a perfect game against the Wild, but they did more right than wrong. They took too many penalties, but they killed all four of them. They gave up the lead twice but came back both times. And even though they didn’t score on five of their power plays, they managed to notch a rare power play to keep the game from spiraling out of control in the second period.
A big reason the Coyotes beat the Wild was the stellar play of goaltender Karel Vejmelka. The Coyotes limited the Wild to just five shots in the first period, but they came back with a vengeance, and Vejmelka faced 30 shots in the final two periods. The Coyotes don’t win many games, but goaltending usually plays a big part when they do.
Tonight’s competition will be lower than Monday’s, in fact, it will be one of the few times that the Arizona Coyotes play a team lower than them in the standings. The Chicago Blackhawks are the worst team in the Central, five points back of the Coyotes, having played two fewer games.
The Blackhawks come into tonight’s game riding a two-game losing streak. They fell 3-2 in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks in their first game back from the All-Star break, which is good news for those watching the tankathon, and lost 7-3 to the Edmonton Oilers before the break. But before that, they beat the Calgary Flames 5-1, so who knows what could happen tonight.
The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t doing anything especially well this season. They are 32nd in goals scored, with 120 in 49 games. However, they are slightly better defensively, tied with the Coyotes in giving up 177 goals, the tenth most in the NHL.
Chicago’s power play and penalty kill are both slightly better than the Coyotes, but that isn’t saying much. They have the 24th penalty kill compared to the Coyotes’ 26th, and their power play scores 19.2 percent of the time compared to the Coyotes’ 18.4%. Tonight will be a matchup of the very stoppable force and the easily moved object.
But when two bad teams come together, there is always the chance that things could get crazy. Tonight’s game could be a low-scoring slog or a high-offense shooting gallery. Either way, the Coyotes need to find a way to strike early, take control of things, and don’t let up if they get a lead. And if they fall behind, they can’t stop pushing because tonight could be a perfect night for the Comeback Coyotes.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Jakob Chychrun - It feels like we are in the final days of Chychrun’s time with the Coyotes, and he is making sure every team knows that he is ready to compete. He had two goals against the Wild, his sixth multi-point game in 35 games this season.
Chicago: Jason Dickinson - Dickinson had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks’ last game and comes into tonight’s matchup riding a three-game goal streak. He’s spent most of his career with the Dallas Stars and hasn’t finished with more than 22 points, but with a depleted Blackhawks roster, he is making the most of his opportunity with eight goals and 18 points in 45 games.
Arizona: Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body), Liam O’Brien (upper body), Bryan Little (ear), Andrew Ladd (knee)
Chicago: Jarred Tinordi (questionable, face), Jonathan Toews (questionable, illness), Alex Stalock (concussion), Jujhar Khaira (back)
Tonight’s game will be in Chicago and will start at 6:30 pm Arizona time, airing on Bally Sports Arizona Extra and 98.7 FM.