With the off-ice issues settled for now, the Arizona Coyotes can return their attention to the upcoming season. The 2015-16 campaign is less than ten weeks away, with the Coyotes starting their year in Los Angeles against the Kings on October 9. Arizona’s schedule is filled with some marquee matchups in the first half. Here is a look at some of the bigger games that await the Coyotes between now and the end of 2015.
October 10 vs. Pittsburgh
Arizona’s home schedule begins with a difficult challenge right away as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the Pittsburgh Penguins roll into Gila River Arena. The Penguins won both games against the Coyotes last year, sweeping back-to-back Saturday contests in late March. However, Arizona kept both games close all the way until the end, which is a testament to how much the Coyotes improved near the end of the season. The question is whether Arizona can turn the effort they showed at the end of last year into victories to begin the new campaign, especially against a Pittsburgh team that added Phil Kessel to their wealth of talent in the offseason. It will also be interesting to see how many of Arizona’s young prospects will make their home debut that night, which includes Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, and Dylan Strome.
November 12 vs. Edmonton
The Coyotes only managed to put together 24 wins last season and they can thank the Edmonton Oilers for five of them. A number of Arizona’s highlights came at the expense of Edmonton, such as Mikkel Boedker’s hat trick, Tobias Rieder’s two shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s game-winning goal with 0.3 seconds left in overtime. However, Edmonton might have gotten the last laugh as they won the draft lottery and received the first overall pick for the fourth time in six years. The Oilers used that pick to take Connor McDavid, who is widely believed to be the next young superstar in the league. Arizona will get an up-close look at McDavid and the Oilers for the first time in November, which will provide a good test to see how much the two worst teams in the Pacific Division improved during the offseason.
November 27 vs. Calgary
Arizona plays three home games in four nights during Thanksgiving week, all against playoff teams from last year. The Calgary Flames are the second team in that gauntlet and they have dominated the Coyotes in recent years. Since March 2012, Calgary is 11-4-0 against Arizona, including six wins in their last seven meetings. The Coyotes need to figure out a way to break this slump against the Flames, who went from the second-worst team in the Western Conference in 2013-14 to a second-round playoff team last season. The Flames are looking to build off that success, especially after an offseason that saw them acquire Michael Frolik and Dougie Hamilton.
December 4 at Buffalo
There are three early storylines for Arizona in this game against the Sabres. First, it could be Arizona’s first look at Jack Eichel, the second overall pick in this year’s Entry Draft. Like McDavid in Edmonton, there are high expectations for Eichel as he begins his pro career in Buffalo. Second, this game comes in the middle of a rough stretch for the Coyotes. Arizona plays five road games in eight days to begin December, with this game being the second of a back-to-back following a matchup with the Detroit Red Wings.
Third, the Coyotes have also made a habit of having some interesting endings happen in Buffalo. Last year, several Buffalo fans in attendance cheered when Sam Gagner’s power-play goal gave Arizona a 4-3 overtime win. The year before, the Coyotes were the victims of the infamous “butt goal” when Mike Smith’s inadvertent own goal in overtime gave the Sabres a 2-1 victory.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.