COYOTES (10-14-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (11-11-6)
7:30 pm (SNO)
It’s the battle of two struggling teams. The Arizona Coyotes roll into town to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in what will be a chance for two teams to turn their misfortunes around. Both teams are sporting identical 3-4-3 records in their last 10 games played, with the Coyotes winning their last matchup against the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1. The Leafs are dealing with two difficult loses after beating the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.
The Coyotes are only ahead of the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference with 25 points. The Leafs sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, however they are only two points behind teams such as the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. On a positive note, this would move them up in the standings closer to a playoff spot. But there’s a ways to go.
Like the Maple Leafs, the Coyotes are going through their own rebuild sporting a young roster that features the likes of Anthony Duclair, Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse and Christian Dvorak. Before their win over the Wings, the Coyotes looked to have hit rock bottom after a 7-0 beat down from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Head coach Dave Tippett was pleased with his teams’ response and effort from the loss.
”You could sense before the game that they wanted to redeem themselves after that game, and they played a very strong game tonight,” Tippett said after their win.
The Coyotes will be without one of their key and budding young stars in Max Domi. Domi underwent surgery on his hand and will be out indefinitely. The injury appeared to have occurred during a fight with Garnet Hathaway of the Calgary Flames on December 8th. Domi was channeling his father’s (Tie Domi) presence with the fight. He has a long way to go if he wants to beat his record. Domi has 16 points in 26 games played this year.
After a trade with the Maple Leafs, forward Peter Holland is making his return to the Air Canada Centre. Holland’s time in Toronto wasn’t at all what he expected it to be. He was traded to the Coyotes on December 9th for a conditional sixth- round draft pick in 2018. If the Coyotes re-sign or trade Holland, the Leafs will receive the pick. Holland managed to tally 63 points in 174 games with the Leafs.
In his first game with the Coyotes, Holland recorded two assists in the win against the Red Wings.
The Leafs would love to do what the Coyotes did against the Red Wings and bounce back after blowing a 2-0 lead against the San Jose Sharks. Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews scored for the Leafs and William Nylander recorded two assists in the loss.
Speaking of Auston Matthews, this will mark the first that the Scottsdale, Arizona native will play against his hometown team. Matthews is regaining his offensive form after a 13- game goalless drought, scoring seven in his last nine games. Matthews is right behind Patrik Laine (25 points) in the rookie-scoring race with 22 points.
Fredrik Andersen continues to provide the strong goaltending that gives the Leafs a chance to win every night. Andersen has given up two goals against or less in nine of his last 10 games played. He’ll look to get the start in net tonight after another strong performance against the Sharks, despite the loss.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Komarov– Kadri — Brown
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
Martin — Smith — Shoshnikov
Reilly — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Perilini — Hanzal — Vrbata
Rieder — Martinook — Doan
McGinn — Holland — Duclair
Crouse — Dvorak — Jooris
Ekman- Larsson — Stone
Goligoski — DeAngelo
Chychrun — Schenn