#68 Arizona Coyotesvs.#67 New York Islanders
Written by Valdis Pans
New York Islanders (15-15-4-2) vs. Arizona Coyotes (11-22-4-1)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, January 7, 2017
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale, Arizona
The New York Islanders (8th in Metropolitan Division) are finishing off their 4-game road trip with the second game of a back-to-back set, meeting up with the Arizona Coyotes (7th in Pacific), who will have just 22 hours to recover from a trip to Anaheim themselves…
The upcoming back-to-back schedule, which brings the New York Islanders (15-15-6) to Denver for a game against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, pitting them against the Arizona Coyotes just 23 hours later, is crucial for the Isles. The team had won four of their past five contests, entering Friday, scoring at least four goals in each outing. And if there is any chance the Islanders could still be battling for a place in the playoffs, trailing the 2nd Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference by 9 points with four games in hand, then wins against the two worst teams in the NHL at the moment are an absolute must. Just two points shy of 500 career points before the clash against the Avs, John Tavares was the most productive skater for the Isles this term with 11 goals and 27 points. Anders Lee had scored the most goals (14 for 18 points), while Josh Bailey led the team in assists (19 for 24 points).
With Jaroslav Halak demoted to the AHL after a run of disappointing appearances, German netminder Thomas Greiss will now be the number one for New York, having gone 9-5-0 for the year just before the back-to-back set with a 2.45 GAA. He is 3-3-0 against Arizona with a 2.32 GAA. But it is not unlikely the 30-year-old could get a breather against the low-scoring Coyotes, giving his back-up Jean-Francois Berube (0-2-1 with a 3.27 GAA) a chance to stretch his legs. The Islanders entered Friday, positioned 28th in the league with 36 points from 36 games. They were averaging the 8th highest amount of goals per game (2.86), conceded the 3rd highest amount defensively (3.08), were 24th in power play with a modest 15.0% success rate and ranked 23rd in penalty kill with a not-so-good 79.7% efficiency.
The Arizona Coyotes (11-22-5) will only have 22 hours between their back-to-back double-header, which will finish a 3-game road trip with a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday and start a 3-contest mini homestand versus the New York Islanders the next day. The mood, entering both games, is definitely at the all-time low for the ‘Yotes, as they managed to lose all of their last eight outings (0-8-0), being outscored 31-13. In their last game before Friday the Coyotes failed to score at all, losing 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks. Czech right wing Radim Vrbata led Arizona’s scoring chart with 9 goals and 24 points, while Russian centreman Alexander Burmistrov, who was claimed off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets earlier in the week, is set to make his debut for his new team in the weekend.
Both upcoming games are likely to be split between both Arizona goalies. Mike Smith was coming into Friday with a 7-11-4 season total and a 2.83 GAA, having gone 4-3-0 against the Islanders in the past with a 2.56 GAA. Louis Domingue was 4-10-1 for the year with a 3.42 GAA and 1-1-0 versus the Isles with a 1.52 GAA. The Coyotes were still 29th in the league with 27 points from 38 games before the trip to Anaheim, scoring the 2nd lowest amount (2.08) and conceding the 2nd highest amount (3.24) of goals per game. They had the 5th worst power play percentage at 14.0% and 3rd worst penalty kill showing with an embarrassing 75.0% efficiency.
If there is a chance for the Coyotes to squeeze in an odd win, then this is it. The Islanders are starting to believe that the playoffs are a possibility once again, so the pressure to perform against the league’s two poorest teams is higher than ever. The ‘Yotes, meanwhile, simply have nothing to lose. Their previous matchup this season in New York was as close as anything, with the Islanders claiming a 3-2 win in the third period just due to a lucky short-handed goal…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...