Fri, 03 Dec 2021

Winless Coyotes clash with unbeaten Panthers

Field Level Media
25 Oct 2021, 06:05 GMT+10

This looks like a massive mismatch.

The Arizona Coyotes, winless in five games this season, are hitting the road to take on the Florida Panthers, who are off to the best start in franchise history at 5-0-0.

Sunrise, Fla., is the site for Monday night's game, which is an issue for the Coyotes,who will make the trip south after losing 3-0 to the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

The Coyotes, who own just one point this season (by virtue of a shootout loss), have combined to score just one goal in their past two games.

However, first-year coach Andre Tourigny said his team is close to a breakthrough.

"I'm proud of our effort," he said. "I believe (the results) will even out by the end of the season."

Meanwhile, Sam Bennett tops the Panthers with four goals, and Jonathan Huberdeau leads the team in assists (four) and points (six). Captain Aleksander Barkov, who recently signed an eight-year contract extension, is one of five Panthers tied for second on the team with five points.

In other words, this is a deep Panthers attack.

"We have a lot of different looks and options," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "They can all score goals and make plays."

The Panthers are equally loaded on defense, starting with Aaron Ekblad, the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and the leader of this group; MacKenzie Weegar, who scored a career-high 36 points last season and finished in the top 10 for the Norris Trophy; Radko Gudas, who brings physical play; and Gustav Forsling, who provides speed.

At goalie, the Panthers have two excellent options: 33-year-old veteran Sergei Bobrovsky and 20-year-old rookie Spencer Knight.

Bobrovsky, in four games this season, has a .942 save percentage and a 1.99 goals-against average.

Knight, who could get his second start of the season on Monday, has a 1.00 GAA and a .968 save percentage. In five career games, Knight -- a 2019 first-rounder out of Boston College -- has a 2.03 GAA and a .931 save percentage.

Arizona, which has lost four of its five games by at least three goals, is led by Jakob Chychrun, a 23-year-old former first-round pick who led NHL defensemen with 18 goals in just 56 games last season.

"I think my wrist shot is one of the best out there for defensemen," he said.

Chychrun, who is from Boca Raton, Fla., is one of several Coyotes with ties to the Panthers or their home state.

The Coyotes have defensemen Anton Stralman, who played the past two years with the Panthers, and Shayne Gostisbehere, who is from Florida, just a few minutes away from Sunrise.

In addition, Coyotes left winger Lawson Crouse was the Panthers' first-round pick in 2015.

Crouse scored an empty-net goal against the Panthers on Jan. 7, 2020, which was the last time the Coyotes played in Sunrise. The Coyotes won that game, 5-2.

To win on Monday, the Coyotes likely need more from veteran winger Phil Kessel, who led the team with 20 goals last season but has yet to get on the board in this campaign.

The Coyotes got rid of their top three goalies from last season and brought in veteran Carter Hutton, 35. Hutton, since the start of last season, is 1-12-1, and his GAA in two games in this campaign is ugly (8.75).

Arizona could start rookie Karel Vejmelka, 25, who is off to a promising start with a 2.88 GAA and a .900 save percentage in four games.

--Field Level Media

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