Tonight the Coyotes face the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto. The Coyotes are always the talk of the town when they cross the border up North. The Canadian writers/bloggers/fans begin to salivate at the thought of the Phoenix organization relocating to a Canadian city. If anything, the Canadian writers do not disappoint. The rumors are flying around after an article was written about the NHL not owning the Phoenix Coyotes next year. Nonetheless, the real news should and is on the ice for the game this evening. Here are a few quick points:
– Goaltending is a touchy subject in Toronto these days. With the injury to James Reimer, the Maple Leafs has given Jonas Gustavsson a chance to carry the load. Rumors have been swirling about the Leafs picking up a veteran goalie as a stop gap. On the other hand the Coyotes have one of the hottest goaltenders in the league. Mike Smith has continued to impress the NHL this season with a strong rebound performance. Look for him to carry the load tonight again, facing the duo of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.
– Kessel and Lupul need to be kept in check this evening if the Coyotes stand a chance. Kessel is off to a phenomenal start with 12 goals and Lupul is not far behind with 9 goals and 19 points. Toronto depends on these two horses for the offensive production.
– Cal O’Reilly will have this road trip to get some chemistry on and off the ice with his new teammates. O’Reilly possesses great vision and skill. Look for him to have a breakout trip, and make Don Maloney happy that he made the acquisition.
– Martin Hanzal has stepped up since receiving the honor of wearing the “A” on his sweater. For a team that lacks offense, Hanzal could take this team to new levels at his current offensive pace.
– Can Shane Doan shake the recent scoring drought? Doan has struggled of late to be on the score sheet. He still provides a great, physical presence on the ice when he does not score. Against this Leafs team, the tempo can be taken by the Coyotes with a strong fore-check and Doan needs to provide that tonight.
– I expect the first period to be a bit of a feel out period for both teams. These two teams do not meet very often, and the rosters have changed since their last meeting. The first period will be low scoring and low on scoring attempts. The dump and chase factor will be dominant early until each coach can figure out the opposition.
– The Coyotes need to get Taylor Pyatt scoring again. When he scores, he scores in bunches. Getting him involved in the offense will be important.
– The big bodies of the Coyotes need to take advantage down low in the offensive zone against the smaller Toronto lineup.
– It will be good to see a familiar face in Matthew Lombardi tonight. The former Coyote has not put up many points this season, but is happy to just be on the ice and healthy. Lombardi played just 2 games with the Nashville Predators last season before suffering an injury.
– Finally, congrats to the newest members of the hockey Hall of Fame. Ed Belfour, Mark Howe, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Doug Gilmour were inducted into the Hall of Fame in Toronto.