The Arizona Coyotes are back home after what, in retrospect, was a very good road trip. With a win against the Nashville Predators on Monday and points against the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues on Friday and Saturday, it would be a successful road trip if the Coyotes weren’t tanking.
That’s not to say the Coyotes somehow stumbled onto a winning strategy. In all three games, they took an early lead in the first period, only to see the other team rebound in the second. The Coyotes may have come back all three times, but they probably shouldn’t push their luck.
The Coyotes’ refusal to die is their most enduring trait this season, and it is partially because they have been getting a good mix of offense. The Dynamic Duo of Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz had a combined eight goals and nine assists on the road trip, and Lawson Crouse has three goals in his last two games.
Of course, the story for the Coyotes right now has to deal with their blue line. The Coyotes have sat Jakob Chychrun for the last two games for trade-related reasons, and they also plan to do it tonight. Of course, it makes sense for a team to want to protect a player they are hoping to trade, but for now, the Coyotes are without their two best defensemen, with Shayne Gostisbehere side-lined with an injury.
The Arizona Coyotes have one advantage going into tonight’s game; they will be the more well-rested team. The Tampa Bay Lightning played in Colorado last night, winning 4-3 in the shootout.
The Lightning being tired could be the Coyotes’ best chance for success tonight. The Lightning are undeniably a good team, but they haven’t been great since the All-Star Break. They are 3-2-1 since then, falling 7-1 to the Florida Panthers and 4-3 to the Sharks in overtime.
Despite the just-okay play since their return from the All-Star Break, the Lightning are still an impressive team. They are missing a few pieces from their back-to-back cup wins, but they are fourth in goals scored per game and have the second-best power play.
The Lightning played Andrei Vasilevskiy last night, so the Coyotes may face Brian Elliott tonight. Elliott has played in 13 games this season and has a .898 save percentage and a 3.14 goals-against average.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Clayton Keller - It is hard to overstate how good Clayton Keller has been this season. He just hit the 50-point mark and comes into tonight’s game with nine points in his last four games.
Tampa Bay: Nikita Kucherov - Kucherov started the comeback for the Lightning last night with a goal and comes into tonight’s game riding an impressive 11-game point streak.
Arizona: Liam O’Brien (questionable, upper body), Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body), Bryan Little (ear), Andrew Ladd (knee)
Tampa Bay: Brent Seabrook (shoulder)
Arizona: Jakob Chychrun
Tonight’s game will be at 7:00 pm Arizona time and will air on Bally Sports Arizona and on 98.7 FM.