After a long road trip and an All-Star break, the Seattle Kraken welcome the Arizona Coyotes to Climate Pledge Arena Wednesday. This won’t go down as a marquee matchup on the NHL schedule, as it features the two clubs holding down the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Seattle has 15 wins, and the Coyotes have 11, and while Arizona may seem like an automatic two points, you should ask the team that lost to them first this season – which of course is the Kraken.
Yes, the Coyotes handed the Kraken one of their toughest losses of the season back on Nov. 6, beating them 5-4 after Seattle had an early 3-1 lead. It was ugly.
A lot of time has passed since that game, and as Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate, the Kraken are focused on their game.
But what about the Coyotes?
Yes, they are all in for the tank, er, rebuild this season and of course have arena drama. However, the NHL is tough, and any team can win on any night so Seattle cannot overlook these scrappy Coyotes.
Coyotes to watch
Arizona is led by All-Star forward Clayton Keller, who in 46 games, has 17 goals with 21 assists and 38 points. On the back end the Coyotes are getting a strong season out of Shayne Gostisbehere, who has 28 points on eight goals and 21 assists.
Phil Kessel is still in Arizona and can always be dangerous, although he’s had a modest year compared to his past performances.
Overall, the Coyotes are last in the NHL in goal scoring, averaging 2.15 goals per game. By comparison, Seattle is averaging 2.61 which is 25th in the league. If you’re a bettor, you might want to consider the under in this one, but always remember to bet with your head and not above it.
Who’s stopping the puck?
Philipp Grubauer will be back in net for the Kraken, and he’ll face Karel Vejmelka who played Tuesday night and gets a rare back-to-back start. Vejmelka made 24 saves Tuesday in Vancouver during a 5-1 Canucks win.
Seattle will need to test him early and often Wednesday night.
The Coyotes have two off-ice connections with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. Arizona goalie coach Corey Schwab played for the Thunderbirds from 1988 through 1991 prior to a long pro career that included stops with the New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Arizona head video coach Hunter Cherni served in a similar hockey operations role with the Thunderbirds. If you’re a fan of ironic coincidences, when Cherni left Seattle to work for the Providence Bruins in 2015, he was replaced at the Thunderbirds with current Kraken video assistant Brady Morgan. After a season with the Thunderbirds, Morgan moved to work for the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate in Tucson.
Coyotes odds and ends
It goes without saying that scoring first is always a key to winning in the NHL, but that might be heightened Wednesday night. Arizona is 5-23-2 when their opponent scores first, while the Kraken are 8-20-3.
Arizona’s power play is ranked 32nd in the NHL and its penalty kill is 31st. Will Wednesday night be the elixir that the Kraken’s sick power play needs?