The hopes of a Coyotes postseason have long since past (I apologize if that’s shocking news to anyone), and the last 10 weeks of the season is management’s time to evaluate all the players and their future in Arizona.
Tonight, the Coyotes will play their first game back from the NHL All-Star break at home, here are some elements to look for.
Injuries seemed to have slapped the Coyotes in the face throughout the season. It started out with Jakob Chychrun’s knee injury before the start of the season. After the entire goalie fiasco early on, we got Raanta back and healthy in the lineup but Niklas Hjalmarsson missed ten games due to an upper-body injury.
Now that we have both Hjalmarrson and Chychrun back and possibly better than before, a new wave of injuries came during the Coyotes’ previous game against the Blue Jackets.
D-man Alex Goligoski was out that game due to illness and is expected to be in the lineup tonight. But as some of you may recall, both D-man Jason Demers and Center Brad Richardson suffered upper-body injuries later in the game and neither returned to the bench.
While Brad Richardson is good to go for tonight’s game, Demers remains day-to-day. Jordan Martinook, who is also struggling with an upper-body injury but also played last week is expected yet again to be a game-time decision.
The Coyotes called up D-man Kyle Capobianco from the Roadrunners after his appearance in the AHL All-Star game and was practicing with the team this morning. There has been no mention of whether he will be in the lineup tonight. If Martinook doesn’t play tonight, you can expect either Josh Archibald or Freddie Hamilton to replace him in the lineup. Archibald has played 11 games with the Coyotes and has registered three goals, an assist and 15 penalty minutes. Hamilton has yet to make his first appearance with Arizona.
What to Expect
What the Coyotes make up in young talent, the Stars make up in veteran skill and composure. Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin (just to name a few) not only lead the Stars in points but are all over the average age of the Coyotes’ roster.
Dallas started and ended the All-Star break with losses, one against Toronto and the other on Tuesday at home against the Kings. The Stars, who are on track to make the playoffs or at least be in a wildcard position, think that an away game is possibly what they need at the moment to be put back on track. They are currently one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild, and their next game happens to be against the Wild so banking points in tonight’s game will be important.
When the teams last met, both the Coyotes and the Stars were struggling to play under the expectations of their new coaches. Adin Hill was the starting goalie for Arizona and the Stars took the game 5-4.
Antti Raanta is expected to get the start tonight at Gila River Arena for the Coyotes. Raanta’s performances in the last few games have been, well, what you would expect from a starting goalie, and eyes will be on him to see if he can maintain that level of execution. Since his return to the lineup, Raanta is in the Top 10 for best save percentage by goalies that have played 20 or more games.
Photo from Coyotes Official Twitter Account