After a week off and a player departed, the Coyotes come back rested and healthier in preparation for Edmonton.
The Arizona Coyotes haven’t hit the ice in nearly a week, yet changes for the team continue to happen. In the waning hours of what was likely a couple days at the beach in January, Anthony Duclair was shipped to Chicago after a series of leaks around the league revealed Duclair had requested a trade some time ago.
Moreover, following Duclair’s trade to Chicago, further details revealed a rift between the organization and Duclair apparently lasting more than just the last couple weeks. In fact, according to media interviews with Coyotes GM John Chayka following the exchange, the discontent for one another had dated years, leading many to believe there was little Rick Tocchet could have done to salvage the once touted forward.
Lost in all of this was the trade itself, which sent Adam Clendening with Duclair to Illinois in exchange for Richard Panik and Laurent Dauphin. In other words, an exchange of familiar faces; Clendening was once a Blackhawk and Dauphin a Coyotes prospect only 7 months ago.
View From Edmonton
The view from Edmonton can only be described as cold and desolate. Far from the sunny and 60 degree winter of the Valley, Edmonton has frozen over and that extends to the hockey team as well. While Arizona has performed poorly, as expected by many national analysts, Edmonton has done considerably poor themselves, hanging onto an 18-23-3 record.
The key word for Edmonton this year is flat, because outside of Connor McDavid , that’s all they have been. Their backend continues to give Oilers management fits, while depth scoring issues has been a concern since the organization appeared to depart from the previous decade-long rebuild. Goaltending, which was considered improved after Cam Talbot’s stellar performance last year, has regressed considerably to the point of acquiring Al Montoya.
However, most prominent, is the impending cap crisis moving into Edmonton. With McDavid’s first non-rookie contract coming into play at season’s end, the window for cheap, high-end talent is slamming shut, leaving the organization in a precarious position.
At the season’s mid-point, Edmonton is in trouble. On the outside of the playoff picture looking in, they are seeking the spark needed to attempt a scramble back towards relevance. Be prepared for desperation – if they come out flat against Arizona, the walls may truly come crashing down.
View From Arizona
Arizona has been active of recent. They claimed Josh Archibald and Freddie Hamilton from waivers, signalling that they are beginning to grab semi-quality pieces to replace any trade deadline moves they may make.
Building off the Duclair trade, Panik will join the team in Arizona but it remains to be seen if he will play. That will likely be a game time decision and where he falls in the Arizona lineup will be interesting to see.
Rick Tocchet has been skating Tobias Rieder in the top 6 for weeks now but with Panik having scoring skill and experience with former teammates such as Jonathon Toews and Brandon Saad, there’s a chance Panik starts out high to see where he fits.
Moreover, the break leading into Edmonton has been a chance for the team to get healthy. After a travel-heavy start to the season, laden with injuries, the Coyotes finally got some time to recover and re-energize. Niklas Hjalmarsson may be closer to return from an upper-body injury now and Antti Raanta has had more time to distance himself from his early struggles.
Does the Duclair trade light a fire under anybody? Max Domi and Duclair were proclaimed to be the future dynamic duo of the desert. The “Killer D’s” were expected to be the next big thing. Instead, Domi isn’t scoring and Duclair is now finding himself an apartment somewhere in Lincoln Park or River North. Does this trade wake up the Coyotes, and Domi in particular, at all?
Is Edmonton’s head already down? For a lot of teams, when you’re down, the quality of coaching and leadership can pick you back up and return you to contention. The major question for Edmonton at this point is whether McDavid is prepared to stand up and assume command? If he isn’t, it remains to be seen which Oiler(s) can lead the team back onto the right path.
Good goalie, or bad goalie? Both Edmonton and Arizona have had defensive struggles and goaltending woes. If one goalie really shines, that team will probably grab the two points. But if neither show and the defensive corps are as porous as usual, expect the night to be a high scoring affair.
Players to Watch
Arizona: F Max Domi – As previously mentioned, Domi has not been scoring and after coming off a break and seeing one of his closest friends traded, this game will be test of resolve for the young forward. If he’s flying around creating chances and mixing it up with the Oilers, we’ll know something has jarred him back towards his old self.
Edmonton: F Jesse Puljujarvi – After struggling last year and being sent to sunny Bakersfield, Puljujarvi has come into his own during this stint in the big league. However in his last 5 games, he’s been -1 with no points. So in the first game of a back to back leading into Edmonton’s bye week, keep an eye on the young Swede to break out of his funk.
Arizona: D Niklas Hjalmarsson (IR- upper body injury/concussion)
F Zac Rinaldo (non-injured- 6 game suspendsion per league)
The puck drop is in Glendale on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and ESPN 620AM at 7pm Arizona time. The game can also be viewed online via Fox Sports Go and through NHL.tv.
Read the full story at Five for Howling.