Arizona Coyotes come to town for NHL game
Tucson will be welcoming a NHL game when the Anaheim Ducks clash with the Arizona Coyotes for some preseason hockey on Monday night at the Tucson Convention Center.
The Coyotes are coming off a forgettable season as they finished sixth in their division, only one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. Meanwhile, the Ducks finished at the top of the same division and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before injuries and bad luck caught up with them and they lost to the Nashville Predators in six games.
This season both teams will look different, and it will be for the better. Arizona decided to forego resigning Shane Doan to open up a roster position for one of countless prospects floating around in junior hockey leagues or the AHL. Anaheim added established goaltender Ryan Miller to strengthen their tandem.
The Pacific Division, the division both the Ducks and Coyotes play in, is one of the most difficult to play in, so fighting for a spot will be difficult for both teams, but that's a topic for the regular season. The preseason is all about the players and individual stories that will make up those teams, and on Monday night there will be plenty players to keep an eye on.
Since it is preseason hockey and there's sometimes 50 players vying for a spot, it's no guarantee who will be playing until the benches are filled at puck drop, so here's a few players from each team to watch if they make the line-up for the game.
On Anaheim's side they have Brandon Montour, Patrick Eaves, and Rickard Rakell. Montour was a player who spent time split between the AHL and NHL and scored more points in the playoffs with the Ducks than he did in the regular season. The 23-year-old established that he can play with the big boys and can make an impact in pressure situations. He's played around a good amount of the Coyotes players while either in the AHL or NHL so should easily be a dominant player. If he's not scoring a goal or two and dancing around other players, it might be a sign that he might need some more AHL time.
Patrick Eaves was another player who spent little time with Anaheim during the season but it wasn't due to development. Eaves was a Dallas Star to start the season and was traded to Anaheim towards the end of the season. Eaves wound up playing just 20 games with the Ducks and only seven out of their 17 playoff games. This preseason game will be an important one to see where he fits and how he establishes himself with a club he's still fairly unfamiliar with. How he plays can help fans tell if this trade was a bust or not.
And finally, look out for young gun Rickard Rakell. He's a bright young player who has already lit up the scoreboard with Anaheim for a couple years now but with their second-line center Ryan Kesler out of the line-up after hip surgery, Rakell will have to step up for both himself and the Ducks. Kesler is an elite, possible top-line center and the Ducks will have to have Rakell fill in those shoes to the best of his abilities. Look out to see how he does in the faceoff circle – especially in the defensive zone – against some inexperienced talent. His success will equate to the success of the Ducks.
As for Arizona, some players to watch are Anthony Duclair, Ryan MacInnis, and Kyle Wood. Duclair had a miserable time last season after being fourth on the team with 44 points his rookie season in 2015-16 season. He spent a good chunk of time in Tucson with the Roadrunners and only managed to get 15 points in 58 games with the Coyotes. Growing pains might have got to him his second year to initiate a sophomore-slump, so this year will be a bounce back year for him. It is up in the air as to whether he will be with the Coyotes or Roadrunners on opening day, so he will likely be playing hard to ensure he stays in the NHL.
Ryan MacInnis, son of NHL Hall of Famer Al MacInnis, was the third-line center for the Tucson Roadrunners most of last season. He tallied 17 points (8,9) in 68 games. Notably, this plus-minus was second worst on the team at –21. MacInnis is a bright young player who showed promise on both ends of the ice thanks to his defensive positioning and playmaking abilities. He struggled in the faceoff circle last season, so it will be of interest during the game to see if he improved. MacInnis also struggled for part of last season when it came to pressuring the puck, so his aggressiveness will be something to watch for. At 185 pounds, it also wouldn't hurt to see if he has got closer to the 200 mark.
Kyle Wood was a rookie defenseman, AHL all-star, and fan favorite last season, but struggled towards the end. He lacked confidence in his shot as the season wore on and he tended to sit back and play stronger defense and not stick his nose too much into scoring plays as he used to. It will be important to see how often he tries to make plays or make a difference offensively to see how the young star has developed after his first off-season.
Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. at the TCC on Monday, Sept. 25. This will be the first action seen in the Tucson Arena since the Roadrunners' last game on April 1st earlier this year.
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