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Preview: Seattle hosts the Arizona Coyotes

The team with no place to play next year takes on the Kraken

Seattle Kraken v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

What: Arizona Coyotes at Seattle Kraken

Where: Climate Pledge Arena

When: Wednesday, February 9, 2022; 7:00pm PST

Wait, who are we playing? Landlubber’s Guide to the Arizona Coyotes

Coverage

Local TV: ROOT Sports NW

Streaming: ESPN+

Local Radio: 950 AM KJR

SiriusXM: Channel 91

Last Time Out

Well, okay, “last time out” was supposed to be this game on December 21st. This game is a rescheduled version of that game.

Before that, the Kraken used their first meeting with the Coyotes to jump out to a two-goal lead in the first minute, chasing starter Karel Vejmelka with just 59 seconds in the books. It looked like the rout was on, but remember this is the Kraken...

Exiting the first period up 3-1, by the midway point of the third they had fallen behind by a goal. Seattle managed to tie it with less than two minutes to go, then (yep, you guessed it...) allowed the game-winner 13 seconds later — handing Arizona their first win of the season. It was the harbinger of things to come, as we have seen that exact scenario play out repeatedly in the weeks since that early November tilt.

Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, the since-departed Nathan Bastian, and captain Mark Giordano all scored for Seattle. Philipp Grubauer allowed 5 goals on just 22 shots, one of the lowest points of a spectacularly bad first quarter of the season. Hopefully the Kraken will use that forgettable performance as motivation for tonight; it would be nice to see them avenge such an embarrassing low-light of their season with an 11-0 slaughter this evening.

Stats, Streaks, & Droughts

Arizona has stunk like a day-old dingleberry from the get-go this season. Their attempts to put a team on the ice bad enough to secure them a last-place finish (and the best draft lottery odds) have been stymied by a Montreal club so unintentionally bad that they have all but locked up the league basement. The Coyotes are 3-7-0 in their last 10, and have just 11 wins on the season. Their lone accomplishment this calendar year is edging the Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche 3-2 just before the All-Star break.

Seattle, by contrast, is headed in the right direction. They are 5-5-0 in their last 10, tied for the best such stretch of the season, and are starting to look like the team that they were intended to be from the start. Following a 5-0 shellacking by the Blues on January 21st, the Kraken have been within reach in every game, even notching some come-from-behind wins, culminating in the franchise’s first-ever shutout against the Islanders last Wednesday.

But most notably, for those of you who missed the long-awaited news: Joonas Donskoi SCORED! It was a real goal, too: not on an empty net, not deflecting in off his ass or anything like that. See for yourself:

That was against Boston on Tuesday of last week. Now that the jinx has been broken, hopefully he will be adding to his point totals more briskly.

Players To Watch

The most dangerous player in the Coyotes’ lineup is left wing Clayton Keller, who leads the team in points and goals going into tonight. In the 23 games starting November 30th and ending last week, he has only failed to notch a point six times. Eeeeyikes...

Phil “The Muffin Man” Kessel holds the team lead in assists, but if you’re going to neutralize the Coyotes’ scoring you need to tend to the guys he is feeding passes to: center Travis Boyd...

...and left wing Lawson Crouse...

For the Kraken, all eyes will be focused on what appears to be a rejuvenated Philipp Grubauer, looking to build on his first shutout in a Seattle uniform, humble and eager to share credit when given the spotlight:

In the forward ranks, Jared McCann takes to the ice tonight looking for goal number 20, which would break his single-season record. He leads the team in points with 30.

And on defense, Vince Dunn potted this tally against the Islanders last week, his first since January 17th.

Injuries, Illnesses, Additions, & Scratches

For Arizona, the Coyotes have nobody on LTIR, nor in COVID-19 protocol, but forwards Jay Beagle, Dmitrij Jaskin, Johan Larsson, and Barrett Hayton, defenseman Connor Timmins, and goaltender Carter Hutton are all on injured reserve and not expected to play. Out of nowhere on Tuesday goaltender Scott Wedgewood was listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury, which puts Arizona in a serious pickle. More on that in a jiffy.

For Seattle, the All-Star break did not yield the healing fruits fans were hoping for. Forwards Brandon Tanev (knee, out for season), Jaden Schwartz (hand, return date pending), and Karson Kuhlman (upper-body, timeline unknown), and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (lower body, timeline unknown) remain on injured reserve. Defenseman Carson Soucy is not officially on IR, but is not available tonight. Will Borgen attended and participated in full practice yesterday, indicating that he has emerged from COVID protocol and will likely be in the lineup.

Just shy of lunch on Tuesday news came across that Seattle had made a waiver claim, picking up 29-year-old forward Austin Czarnik from the New York Islanders. Czarnik has 136 NHL games to his credit with 3 teams including Boston and Calgary. He has logged just 15 contests with New York during the past two seasons, notching 5 points in that span. He is listed as a center, but with a 39.7 win percentage you do not want him taking face-offs for you. He is another “Mighty Mite” in the mold of Yanni Gourde — 5’9”, 170 lbs. — and his status for tonight is unknown, but unlikely. Expect Czarnik to be assigned to the taxi squad until a few forwards emerge from IR, then likely waived again before being demoted to Charlotte.

In goal, Grubauer is the likely starter for Seattle, but as tonight’s outing is the second half of back-to-back games for Arizona, things are considerably more complicated. With Wedgewood’s injury the only healthy NHL-caliber goaltender they have is the aforementioned Vejmelka (and please understand that I use “NHL-caliber” in the most lenient sense possible). The ‘Yotes have recalled Ivan Prosvetov (and his .882 save percentage) from AHL Tucson as of Tuesday morning. Neither goalie really gives the team a chance to win on any given night, so it’s anybody’s guess as to who the Kraken will be facing when the puck drops. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute details.

Odds & Ends

  • Don’t look now, but the Arizona Coyotes will be without a rink at the end of this season. The city of Glendale has refused to renew the team’s lease on Gila River Arena, and the team’s proposal for a new mega-complex in Tempe was voted down. Their current “plan” is to move into Arizona State’s new 5,000-seat multi-sport complex for the next several years, but significant hurdles remain — not the least of which being the building isn’t completed yet!
  • The most notable name ever to take his place on the Coyotes’ bench was none other than Wayne Gretzky, then part owner of the team and director of hockey operations, who took the reins as head coach to start the 2005-06 season. The next most notable is probably Brett Hull, Gretzky’s close friend and teammate on the St. Louis Blues. Hull was signed by the Coyotes to start the 05-06 season, but played just 5 games before announcing his retirement.
  • If you’re like me, and you take hockey superstition very seriously, you will be displeased to know that Philipp Grubauer has switched back to his TRUE brand goal pads. The horrendous start to the season saw him ditch those in favor of the CCM model he was so successful with in Colorado. During practice on Tuesday the eagle-eyed folks at Sound of Hockey noticed him wearing the pads from earlier this year. Let’s hope he’s just waiting for the paint on some Kraken-colored CCM’s to dry — but if not, place me squarely in the “worried” column.
  • The folks at Kraken HQ got the idea to mic up chatterbox Yanni Gourde at practice. This is worth your time.