The NHL announced the 1,230 games that will make up the 2016-17 season last week. The schedule for the Arizona Coyotes has them opening at home on Oct. 15 against the Philadelphia Flyers, followed by a six-game trip against Eastern Conference foes. Even though there are still four months between the Coyotes and their return to Gila River Arena, there are plenty of storylines shaping up for the upcoming season. Here is a look at some of the more intriguing games taking place in Glendale this year.
Nov. 1 vs. San Jose
After spending the first two weeks of the season playing against mostly Eastern Conference opponents, the Coyotes will open November with a divisional battle against the San Jose Sharks. Arizona will face San Jose for the first time since the Sharks made their run to the Stanley Cup Final this postseason.
San Jose’s appearance in the Stanley Cup Final has left the Coyotes as the only current Pacific Division team that has not made it to the final round of the playoffs. While Arizona is still likely a few steps away from reaching that level, the organization has made progress toward returning to the postseason. This will be a good measuring stick for the young Coyotes early in the season against the defending Western Conference champs.
Dec. 23 vs. Toronto
There is a possibility that Auston Matthews will be coming home for Christmas this year. The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted the Scottsdale native with the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. This could mean that he will play his first NHL game in his home state when the Leafs visit Glendale on Dec. 23. The Coyotes will get their first opportunity to see Matthews about a week before when Arizona travels to Toronto on Dec. 15.
It will also be a battle of a pair of young NHL stars facing their hometown team. Max Domi returned to his home Toronto for the first time as an NHL player last season and scored a goal as the Coyotes edged the Leafs on Oct. 26 at Air Canada Centre.
Dec. 27 vs. Dallas
When the Coyotes return to action following the league-wide holiday break, they will host the Dallas Stars for the only time in the upcoming season. It will be the first time that Arizona’s new defenseman, Alex Goligoski, will get a chance to face his former club. The Coyotes acquired the rights to Goligoski from the Stars in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft (Dallas ended up selecting goaltender Colton Point with that pick). Arizona quickly inked the defenseman to a five-year contract before the free-agency period started on July 1.
Goligoski has been a consistent contributor from the blue line, recording at least 30 points in four of his five full seasons in Dallas while posting a plus-21 rating last year. The veteran will bolster a young, skilled defense corps already in the desert and could help mold the future defensemen that Arizona picked up in the draft.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.