The 2015-16 NHL season has not been an easy road for the Arizona Coyotes. A young hockey team and a schedule packed with back-to-back games had the Coyotes looking at an uphill battle. However, Arizona has thrived so far when playing games on consecutive nights this season. The Coyotes will get a chance to continue that success with three more back-to-back sets this month.
Let’s Play Two
In Arizona’s 10 games during back-to-backs this season, they are 8-2-0 and have won their last four contests. Leading the charge for the Coyotes in these sets has been the team’s top three scoring leaders: Martin Hanzal, Max Domi and Mikkel Boedker. In back-to-back situations, Hanzal leads the team with 12 points (three goals and nine assists), while Domi leads in goals with six. Boedker jumped to third in points with eight following his hat trick in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. Hanzal and Boedker have enjoyed resurgent seasons overall after they both saw last year cut short due to injuries, while Domi has continued to be one of the best rookies in the league after the first two months of the season along with Anthony Duclair.
The first back-to-back this month takes the Coyotes to Detroit on Thursday and Buffalo on Friday. Arizona defeated both of these teams on the road last year, picking up a 5-4 overtime win in Detroit on March 24 and a 4-3 overtime victory in Buffalo on March 26. This time around, the young Coyotes will get a chance to go up against some fellow rookies that have impressed the league. Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, recently named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for November, leads his team and all rookies with 10 goals this season. In addition, Larkin’s 18 points is tied for second on the Red Wings behind Henrik Zetterberg’s 20. Over in Buffalo, Jack Eichel has had a strong beginning to his career with the Sabres. The second overall pick in this year’s draft, Eichel is tied for the team lead with eight goals along with Ryan O’Reilly.
After the Coyotes finish this current five-game road trip, they will play eight of their remaining nine December games at home, including a six-game homestand that begins with back-to-back games on December 11-12. In the first game, Arizona will look to avenge their first loss of the season when the Minnesota Wild return to Gila River Arena. In their last meeting in the desert on October 15, the Wild jumped out to a 3-0 and former Coyote Devan Dubnyk held off Arizona’s rally to give Minnesota a 4-3 win.
Since being traded to the Wild on January 15, Dubnyk is 2-0 against the Coyotes and has stopped 52 of 56 Arizona shots. The second matchup will see Arizona play the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time in less than a week. Prior to their meeting in Glendale on December 12, the Coyotes will be in Raleigh on Sunday looking to end a three-game losing streak to the Hurricanes. It will also be another look at a top-five pick from this year’s draft in defenseman Noah Hanifin.
Following the league-wide holiday break, the Coyotes return to action on December 26 to host the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings currently sit in first place in the Pacific Division, but Arizona has defeated Los Angeles in their two prior meetings this season and both of them came at Staples Center. The Coyotes have tagged goaltender Jonathan Quick for seven goals on 47 shots, including Domi’s first career NHL goal in the season opener on October 9.
After the Coyotes battle the Kings, Arizona travels to Denver for their final road game of 2015 against the Colorado Avalanche. Last year, the Coyotes floundered miserably against the Central Division, going 2-14-5. Arizona has already reached half of that win total after they defeated the Avalanche in Glendale on November 5, which also ended a four-game losing streak against Colorado.
The Coyotes currently hold a winning record on the road at 7-6-1 with five away games left in 2015. Arizona would like to maintain that road success entering 2016 and Colorado would provide a good opportunity to do so as the Avalanche are currently a dismal 3-6-1 at Pepsi Center.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.