Monday Morning Howl: Coyotes Struggling with Injuries

The Arizona Coyotes kicked off last week on Monday night in Columbus looking to avenge their Dec. 3 loss to the Blue Jackets at Gila River Arena. However, they were again unable to stop former Coyotes forward Sam Gagner, who chipped in two goals and two assists for the Jackets in their 4-1 victory over the Coyotes.

The Coyotes would then travel to Chicago on Tuesday night for the second half of a back-to-back and were shut out by the Blackhawks by the score of 4-0 for their fifth consecutive defeat.

The Coyotes then returned home on Thursday looking to reverse their fortunes against the Calgary Flames but lost yet again in overtime by the score of 2-1.

However, things would turn around for Arizona on Saturday; they finally were able to break out on the offensive end of the ice as they defeated the Nashville Predators at Gila River Arena by the score of 4-1.

On the Road Again

Following Saturday’s victory over the Predators, the Coyotes will head out to Pittsburgh to take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins on Monday. The Coyotes split the season series with the Penguins last season, but have not won at PPG Paints Arena since their 3-2 victory there on March 25, 2014. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. in Pittsburgh (5:00 P.M. in Arizona).

After their game in Pittsburgh on Monday, the Coyotes will head out to Detroit for a matchup with the Red Wings on Tuesday night. This likely will be Arizona’s final visit to the historic Joe Louis Arena, as the Red Wings will move into the brand-new Little Caesars Arena following the season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. in Detroit (5:30 P.M. in Arizona).

Arizona’s road trip will continue on Thursday in Toronto, as the Coyotes will face off against Arizona native Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs for the first time this season. The Coyotes have won four straight against Toronto, and are 10-1-1 in their last 12 against the Leafs overall. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. at the Air Canada Centre (5:30 P.M. in Arizona).

The Coyotes will finish out their road trip on Saturday afternoon in Minnesota. The Coyotes swept the season series against the Wild last year, but both victories came by the score of 2-1 in overtime or a shootout. Puck drop is scheduled for 1:00 P.M. in St. Paul (12 noon in Arizona)

Smith Continues to Stand Tall

For the majority of the season, goaltender Mike Smith has been under siege when he’s been in net; he’s faced 35 or more shots in five of his last seven starts, and has faced 40 or more shots on five separate occasions.

However, Smith has stood tall despite facing massive amounts of shots; he’s currently in the top ten in the NHL in save percentage at .931, and has kept the Coyotes relevant despite their porous defense and mostly inefficient offense. If he gets some help from the players in front of him, the Coyotes may be able to get the team’s season turned around before it’s too late.

Doan Makes History

With his first-period assist on Max Domi’s goal against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, Coyotes captain Shane Doan entered a very exclusive club; he joined Mike Modano, Joe Sakic, Ron Francis and Rick Nash as the only players in NHL history to hold their respective franchise’s records in goals, assists, points, power-play goals, game-winning goals and games played.

However, Doan is not done breaking records just yet; with his next goal, he’ll become the 93rd member of the 400-goal club, and the veteran has an outside shot of joining the 1,000 point club this season as well. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on this week as he tries to make history.

Domi Injured, Jooris & Holland Acquired

The Coyotes suffered a major blow last week, as the team announced that star forward Max Domi will be out for at least a month with a hand injury that he suffered in a fight with Calgary Flames forward Garnet Hathaway on Thursday night at Gila River Arena. The loss of Domi obviously will have a big effect on Arizona’s offense; the team will have to find a way to replace his team-leading 11 assists.

While it’ll be impossible to completely make up for Domi’s absence, the Coyotes will attempt to do so with a committee that includes newly acquired centers Josh Jooris and Peter Holland. Holland was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a conditional draft pick, while Jooris was claimed off of waivers from the New York Rangers. The loss of Brad Richardson and the underperformance of Dylan Strome have left the Coyotes thin at the center position, so it comes as no surprise that they’ve acquired some veteran help down the middle.

Pacific Division Roundup

After two months, the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames hold the top three spots in the Pacific Division. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (15-9-5)

  • Last week: 3-0-0
  • Analysis: The Ducks swept all three of their games last week, and now find themselves alone in first place in the Pacific Division for the first time this season. They’ve won the Pacific Division title in four straight seasons; can they make it five in a row this year?
  • Player of the week: Corey Perry – 2 goals, 3 assists
  • This week: Tue at DAL, Thu at BOS, Sat at DET

Calgary Flames (16-13-2)

  • Last week: 3-0-0
  • Analysis: The Flames continue to roll; they’ve won six straight and have vaulted their way past many of the teams in the West to move into playoff position. Chad Johnson has been a big reason for the team’s success; he’s won his last six starts and has a .951 save percentage over that span.
  • Player of the week: Johnny Gaudreau – Goal, 5 assists
  • This week: Wed vs TB, Fri vs CBJ

Edmonton Oilers (15-11-5)

  • Last week: 1-1-2
  • Analysis: The Oilers had leads in all four of their games last week, but came away with just a single victory. They lost in overtime in Buffalo on Tuesday after Evander Kane tied the game with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation, and blew a 5-3 third period lead in Philadelphia to lose in regulation by the score of 6-5. However, they bounced back on Sunday night with a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets and will look to continue their momentum against John Tortorella’s Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
  • Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 3 goals, 2 assists
  • This week: Tue vs CBJ, Sat vs TB

Los Angeles Kings (14-11-2)

  • Last week: 1-1-0
  • Analysis: The Kings opened last week with a Thursday night loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they bounced back with a win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. However, they’ll be tested this week with a tough Eastern Conference road trip.
  • Player of the week: Trevor Lewis – Goal, assist
  • This week: Tue at BUF, Thu at DET, Fri at PIT, Sun at BOS

San Jose Sharks (16-11-1)

  • Last week: 1-2-0
  • Analysis: The Sharks lost their first two games last week, but salvaged a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night to give themselves some positive momentum heading into a big road trip.
  • Player of the week: Brent Burns – 2 goals, assist, 13 shots
  • This week: Tue at TOR, Wed at OTT, Fri at MTL, Sun at CHI

Vancouver Canucks (12-15-2)

  • Last week: 1-3-0
  • Analysis: The Canucks struggled last week on a tough Eastern Conference road trip as they lost three of their four contests. They’ll wrap up this trip on Tuesday in Carolina, and will return home for a four-game homestand starting on Friday against the Lightning.
  • Player of the week: Daniel Sedin – 2 goals, 2 assists
  • This week: Tue at CAR, Fri vs TB, Sun vs CBJ

The Coyotes have been hit hard by injuries this season, and have struggled to stay in contention as a result. However, they’ve been able to remain competitive due to outstanding play from goaltender Mike Smith, but one has to wonder how much longer the veteran will be able to keep up this high level of play before the wheels fall off.