Monday Morning Howl: Keller Signs, Coyotes Struggle on Road

After playing six of seven games from Feb. 5 through Feb. 18 at home, the Arizona Coyotes hit the road last week and kicked off a five-game road trip on Monday in Nashville against P.K. Subban and the Predators. Despite a late power play goal from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes would drop the first game of their road trip by the score of 3-1.

The Coyotes then headed to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning in the second-half of a back-to-back on Tuesday and used a solid performance from Louis Domingue in net to pick up the 5-3 victory at Amalie Arena.

Arizona would then wrap up the Florida portion of their road trip on Thursday against Jaromir Jagr and the Panthers, but would again lose by the score of 3-1 despite a strong performance in goal from Mike Smith, who stopped 36 of the 39 shots he saw.

On Saturday night, the Coyotes would finish out their week against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals and would allow three goals in the final five minutes of the game to lose by a 4-1 margin.

Familiar Opponents

After their disappointing defeat on Saturday night in Washington, D.C., the Coyotes will wrap up their road trip on Monday night in the Gateway to the West against the St. Louis Blues. The Coyotes were recently shut out by the Blues 3-0 on Mar. 18 and will be looking to avoid their 10th consecutive loss to St. Louis. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM local time at the Scottrade Center (5:00 PM in Arizona).

After their matchup on Monday in St. Louis, the Coyotes and Blues will both head back to Arizona for a grudge match on Wednesday night at Gila River Arena. The Coyotes have struggled badly in Glendale against the Blues as of late, as they haven’t defeated St. Louis at Gila River Arena since Mar. 22, 2011. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM in Glendale.

On Friday, the Coyotes will take on the Washington Capitals for the second time in less than a week. The Capitals won 4-1 at the Verizon Center on Mar. 25, but the Coyotes won the last matchup at Gila River Arena on Apr. 2, 2016 by the score of 3-0. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM in Glendale.

The Coyotes will then finish out their week on Sunday night at the Staples Center with their final matchup of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have struggled as of late, as they’re just 5-5-1 since the Mar. 1 trade deadline. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM

Keller Joins Coyotes

The Coyotes struggled on the ice last week, but they received a bit of good news on Sunday afternoon, as Boston University standout and 2016 first-round draft pick Clayton Keller elected to forgo his final three years of college eligibility to sign an entry-level contract with the Coyotes.

Keller had a big year in the NCAA — he recorded 21 goals and 24 assists in just 31 games with BU and appears to be ready to take the next step in his development. He joined the Coyotes on Sunday for practice in his hometown of St. Louis and could potentially begin his NHL career as soon as Monday night.

If Keller does indeed make his NHL debut on Monday against the Blues, he’ll join teammate Jakob Chychrun as one of the few 18-year-olds to have played in the NHL this season. There’s a chance that he may not yet be ready to be an impact player at the NHL level, but playing in a handful of games before the end of the season should be extremely beneficial to his development as the Coyotes look to build toward the 2017-18 season.

Duclair Regaining Tippett’s Trust?

It’s been a rough season for Coyotes forward Anthony Duclair, but the youngster could finally be on the verge of breaking out of the slump that has plagued him for nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign. Duclair has recorded three assists in his last four games and has shown flashes of his former brilliance since coming back up from the AHL earlier this month.

One person who also seems to have noticed Duclair’s improved play is Coyotes’ head coach Dave Tippett. Duclair has seen his ice time steadily increase over the last few games and his improved offensive play has earned him a spot back on Max Domi’s line as well. If Duclair is able to finish the season on a high note, he could potentially be able to put his struggles behind him and start next season with a renewed confidence in his abilities.

Pacific Division Roundup

With just two weeks left to play, the Anaheim Ducks have retaken the Pacific Division lead from the struggling San Jose Sharks. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (41-23-11, 93 points)

  • Last week: 3-0-0
  • Analysis: The Ducks continued their late-season push with three more wins last week. They’re 6-0-1 in their last seven contests and are now in first place in the Pacific with seven games to play.
  • Player of the week: Ryan Getzlaf – 7 assists, +7
  • This week: Tue at VAN, Thu at WPG, Sat at EDM, Sun at CGY

Calgary Flames (42-29-4, 88 points)

  • Last week: 1-2-0
  • Analysis: The Flames lost two more games last week to fall to 3-3-o in their last six contests. However, they’re still in good shape as far as the Western Conference’s playoff race goes; they’re squarely ahead of the Kings for one of the wild-card spots and are just three points behind the Oilers and Sharks in the Pacific Division.
  • Player of the week: Johnny Gaudreau – 4 assists, +1
  • This week: Mon vs COL, Wed vs LA, Fri vs SJ, Sun vs ANA

Edmonton Oilers (41-25-9, 91 points)

  • Last week: 3-1-0
  • Analysis: With three more victories last week, the Oilers improved to 6-1-0 in their last seven games and are now just two points behind the Ducks for first place in the Pacific. The two teams will meet on Saturday in Edmonton in a game that could decide the winner of the division.
  • Player of the week: Connor McDavid – Goal, 7 assists, +2
  • This week: Tue vs LA, Thu vs SJ, Sat vs ANA

Los Angeles Kings (35-32-7, 77 points)

  • Last week: 1-2-0
  • Analysis: Los Angeles’ faint playoff hopes were all but extinguished last week, as they were shut out by the Oilers and Rangers on Monday and Saturday, respectively, to fall nine points behind the Blues for the final wild-card spot in the West with eight games to play. They’ll likely need to win out and get some help to avoid missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
  • Player of the week: Jonathan Quick – 0-2-0 record, 46 saves on 50 shots (.920 SV%)
  • This week: Tue at EDM, Wed at CGY, Fri at VAN, Sun vs AZ

San Jose Sharks (42-26-7, 91 points)

  • Last week: 0-4-0
  • Analysis: The Sharks lost all four of their games last week to drop to 0-6-0 in their last six games overall. They’ll need to get things figured out again in a hurry to avoid dropping into one of the West’s wild-card spots.
  • Player of the week: Patrick Marleau – 3 goals
  • This week: Tue vs NYR, Thu at EDM, Fri at CGY, Sun at VAN

Vancouver Canucks (30-36-9, 69 points)

  • Last week: 2-2-0
  • Analysis: The Canucks have already been eliminated from playoff contention, but they’re still playing hard; they picked up road victories over both the Blackhawks and Wild last week and will have the chance to play spoiler once again this week with contests against Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose.
  • Players of the week: Henrik Sedin – 2 goals, assist
  • This week: Tue vs ANA, Fri vs LA, Sun vs SJ

The Coyotes struggled on the road last week, but the signing of Clayton Keller should give the team some much-needed positive momentum during the final few weeks of the season.