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Game #48 Preview: Arizona vs. Pittsburgh

Niklas Hjalmarsson is set to return to the Coyotes' lineup following his 43-game absence

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Game Preview

GAME #48: ARIZONA (25-18-4) vs. PITTSBURGH (27-12-5)

4:00 PM MST - Gila River Arena | Glendale, AZ

TV: Fox Sports Arizona Plus (Matt McConnell, Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh, Jody Jackson)

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis, Paul Bissonnette)

Referees: Chris Rooney #5, Ian Walsh #29

Linesmen: Trent Knorr #63, Devin Berg #87

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ARIZONA VS. PITTSBURGH

The Coyotes return home to host the Pittsburgh Penguins this late afternoon, early evening at Gila River Arena, marking the second and final meeting between the teams this season.

In suffering their second consecutive shutout, the Coyotes are coming off of a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.

Arizona is currently in a 120:48 goalless drought.

"Obviously, we've got to score goals, six periods we haven't scored, we need to score," head coach Rick Tocchet said following Friday's loss. "We need some guys to put the puck in the net, we all know that, sometimes you've got to be a little bit dirtier to score goals."

The Penguins are playing the final of a three-game road trip, where they've posted a 2-0-0 record thus far. Pittsburgh is coming off of a 4-3 overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.

Currently at second-place in the Metropolitan Division, the Penguins have earned points in seven of their last eight games (6-1-1) and have won 13 of their last 17 games (13-3-1).

A starter has yet to be named by the Coyotes, though Adin Hill is projected to make his third start of the season following Antti Raanta 's injury suffered Friday in Carolina. Ivan Prosvetov was recalled from the Tucson Roadrunners on Saturday and is expected to serve as back-up.

Additionally, defenseman Kyle Capobianco was assigned to the Roadrunners on Saturday.

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THREE THINGS

ADIN ON THE SPOT: Through two starts and five total appearances this season, Adin Hill has spent 198 minutes in the Coyotes' net, making a combined 98 saves on the 106 shots he's faced. The 23-year-old stopped the lone shot he faced in relief of Antti Raanta in the third period of Friday's 3-0 loss in Carolina. Hill carries with him a 2.43 GAA and .925 SV% on the year a career NHL stat-line that reads: 9-9-0, 2.85 GAA, .903 SV%.

HAMMER TIME: With the assignment of defenseman Kyle Capobianco to the Tucson Roadrunners on Saturday, Niklas Hjalmarsson is set to return to the Coyotes' lineup tonight. "He's really close," Tocchet said on Friday. "It could be next game, it could be the game after that, but it's really close. He's champing at the bit. He's like a bull, he wants us to open up that gate." Hjalmarsson, who's been out since suffering a lower-body injury on October 12, has missed the Coyotes' last 43 games. He has been practicing with the team since January 1.

KILLING IT: The Coyotes have killed off 18 consecutive penalties over their last seven-plus games. They come into the night with the second-ranked penalty kill in the NHL with a 83.8 PK%, and since December 14, Arizona leads the league with a nearly perfect 94.1 PK%, only surrendering two power play goals during that span.

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LAST TIME AROUND

DECEMBER 6, 2019 - ARIZONA (0) at PITTSBURGH (2)

The Coyotes suffered their second shutout loss of the season in the teams' previous meeting on December 6 at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena.

Neither team scored through the first 47:13 of play; the Penguins scored two goals, including an empty-net tally, in the final 12:47 of regulation. The Coyotes fired away for 33 shots but were unable to get a puck past the Penguins' Tristan Jarry, who, at the time, recorded his second consecutive shutout.

Phil Kessel finished the game with three shots on goal in what was his first game back in Pittsburgh following the June 29 trade that brought him to Arizona. Antti Raanta stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced in the loss.

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NUMBER TO KNOW

NINETEEN (19)

Nick Schmaltz leads the Coyotes in home scoring this season with 19 points (4G, 15A) in the team's 22 games played at Gila River Arena thus far. He has recorded a point in five consecutive home games, totaling eight (1G, 7A) during that run.

Schmaltz's next assist will serve as the 100th of his NHL career. He enters the night as the Coyotes' overall scoring leader with 35 points (7G, 28A) on the year. In five career games against tonight's opponent, the Penguins, Schmaltz has seven points (2G, 5A).

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QUICK HITS

  • Taylor Hall has 21 points (8G, 13A) in 17 career games against the Penguins.
  • The Coyotes are the NHL's least penalized team (6.5 PIM/G).
  • Jake Guentzel leads the Penguins in goals (20) and points (43).
  • Clayton Keller has points in 12 of the Coyotes' last 20 games, totaling 17 (8G, 9A).
  • The Penguins have won 18 of their 24 games played against Western Conference opponents this season.
  • Alex Goligoski played in 177 games with the Penguins from 2007-11, Phil Kessel 328 games with Pittsburgh from 2015-19.
  • The Coyotes rank third in NHL team defense with a 2.53 GA/G.
  • Arizona owns a 30-25-3-3 all-time record against Pittsburgh.

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Lead Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // GIF Highlight Footage: Fox Sports Arizona

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