Who to watch for in Arizona Coyotes vs Radim Vrbata


Sep 22, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Max Domi (16) looks on during the third period against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight is the night. Live from Vancouver, the 6:00 pm puck drop (aired on NHL Network, for those not living in the icy Arctic north) will feature more than your favorite desert dogs… you’ll see a familiar face, too.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to be hovering in this strange limbo where they won’t admit they’re in a rebuild phase (but desperately need it). Instead, they spent the off-season swapping one familiar face for another- they may have sent Ryan Kesler to Anaheim, but scoring specialist Radim Vrbata is headed from the desert into the snow.

This game can no longer be considered a “split squad” matchup, since the team has shaved off thirty names since training camp began a few weeks ago. Not everyone will be able to play, though- so here’s who you might want to watch for:

Max Domi

Do I sound like a broken record yet? I probably sound like a broken record.

Broken record or not, though, Max Domi has exactly twelve games left to find his rhythm with the team and earn his right to stay in Arizona. He needs to do something impressive before the ninth game of the regular season, or CBA age regulations dictate that he’ll have to head back to London and play another season with the Knights in the OHL.

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  • He’s looked good so far, but he’s also spent a lot of time on a line with Henrik Samuelsson. It’s been difficult so far to discern who’s spotlight is supporting whose, so it’ll be up to Domi to distance himself from his partner in crime and stand out as a solo entity- Samuelsson, for the time being, is back in Portland.

    Lucas Lessio

    Things have looked pretty bright so far for Lucas Lessio, but he can’t expect that a roster spot will just be given to him. Unless the coaches want to catch a glimpse of some of the other on-the-brink players and choose to wait on him till the San Jose game later in the week, expect to see plenty of this guy on the ice tonight.

    Lessio has made some pretty spectacular plays. He’s sitting on the preseason with a shootout victory against the Sharks to his name, and he looked nice on the power play with Michael Stone and David Schlemko back in the matchup against the Anaheim Ducks. With Max Domi winning over the crowd, though, and both Tobias Rieder and Justin Hodgman nipping at his heels, Lessio will need to be in top form tonight.

    Justin Hodgman

    I want this guy to make the roster, just so the Coyotes can brag about the KHL convert skating around in their arena.

    All snarkiness aside, though, Justin Hodgman has been absolutely killing it. It’s become almost expected that he’ll fire off a goal during any given pre-season matchup, and if he plays his cards right, he’ll be taking over one of the spots so painstakingly reserved for the members of the Fantastic Five.

    Should he play well enough, he could even make them the Sensational Six.

    Mar 25, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) passes the puck from his knees against pressure from Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek (4) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Phoenix Coyotes won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Veterans to watch:

    • Zbynek Michalek is back on the ice following recovery from a hip injury. He skated in the San Jose game for close to 22 minutes on Friday, so expect to see him continuing to retool his play in anticipation of the season
    • Sam Gagner has quickly become the next Mike Ribeiro for Arizona; unlike Ribeiro, though, he’s full of optimism about his move to the desert. Too bad the Ribeiro buyout is still too fresh in everyone’s minds for either the Coyotes front office or the team’s fans to be very forgiving- Gagner will need to establish himself as an indispensable member of the team’s offensive line in order to find a permanent home with the team.
    • Keith Yandle always needs to be watched. Literally, always.
    • Mikkel Boedker slipped through my fingers in my fantasy draft last night, and I’m not sure I can forgive my league for that. As much as I’d like to wish him a happy season of mediocrity that will tank my friend’s fantasy team, though, I’d much rather see the Danish forward finish growing into his skin.
    • Shane Doan had a lot of trouble recovering from his bout with Rocky Mountain Fever last season, and it showed in his stats. He was on track to be the team’s leading scorer had he been healthy, though- and that’s the Doan that everyone is hoping to see this season. He, like all the vets, has been seeing limited action in the pre-season, but that might change with this game

    We’ll be live-tweeting the game for you tonight from the Howlin’ Hockey Twitter, so head over and give us a follow!