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Hey, Game Day!: Opening Night in Anaheim

The Coyotes open their 2019-20 regular season schedule tonight against the Ducks

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Game #1: Arizona (0-0-0) at Anaheim (0-0-0)

7:00 PM MST - Honda Center | Anaheim, California

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

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis)

Referees: Mark Joannette #25, Brian Pochmara #16

Linesmen: Brandon Gawryletz #64, Travis Toomey #90

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> OPENING NIGHT IN ANAHEIM <

A fresh start. That's arguably the most attractive aspect to any season-opening game.

Of course, that's the case with the Coyotes, who open the gates on their 2019-20 campaign tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. To be fair, Arizona isn't unique in that sense.

Where they may stand exclusive is with the degree of hope tied to it all; the promise, the excitement, the welcomed expectations built on a core group that fought fiercely while terribly depleted by injury to push for a playoff berth up until the second-to-last game of the 2018-19 season, only to finish four points out.

That core group remains, and joining it are two high-profile offseason additions that will, barring odd circumstances, make their debuts in Coyotes uniforms tonight; two acquisitions brought to Arizona to help push a young core entering its prime to the next level.

Expect, unsurprisingly, for both of those aforementioned adds, Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg , to play tonight.

Darcy Kuemper will get the start, as confirmed by head coach Rick Tocchet on Wednesday.

Barrett Hayton and Kyle Capobianco will serve as extras tonight, as confirmed by Tocchet at the morning skate.

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> THREE THOUGHTS <

1) FIRST LOOK, FIRST LINE: Throughout training camp the trio of Clayton Keller , Derek Stepan , and Phil Kessel have been skating together as the Coyotes' first line. The three have also been shown together on the team's top power play unit. Kessel and Stepan have demonstrated a chemistry-driven synchronized approach when playing together during the preseason while Keller's training camp has been praised by head coach Rick Tocchet. That line, if and when it clicks, has the makings to be thoroughly dangerous.

2) CLEARED FOR WORK: Two intriguing names bit by the injury bug last season, forwards Christian Dvorak and Nick Schmaltz , enter tonight's opener operating at full health. Dvorak, who didn't play in his first regular season game until February 26 of last year, led the Coyotes in preseason points with four (1G, 3A). Schmaltz has not played in a regular season game since December 30, but like Dvorak, played in a team-high five exhibition games. Schmaltz has been seen as the fourth forward on the Coyotes' top power play unit throughout training camp.

3) JUST WIN: It goes without saying that a win to start the season would be more than welcomed. A good start can go a long way, even for Rick Tocchet's oft-referenced "day-by-day" approach. The Coyotes' previous season-opening win came in 2016, a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on home ice, clinched with an Oliver Ekman-Larsson goal 3:12 into overtime.

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> LAST TIME AROUND <

March 14, 2019 - Arizona (6) vs. Anaheim (1)

Vinnie Hinostroza stole the show during the previous meeting between these two teams, scoring his first-career hat trick in a 6-1 triumph over the Ducks at Gila River Arena late last season. Hinostroza scored Arizona's third, fourth, and fifth goals of the evening.

Darcy Kuemper made 36 saves while Jason Demers chipped in with a goal and an assist, recording his first points in his sixth game back in the Coyotes' lineup after missing almost four months with an injury.

The win gave the Coyotes a final record of 3-2-0 in their season series against the Ducks.

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> NUMBER TO KNOW <

SEVEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE (775)

He knows how to produce and is durable doing so. Tonight marks Phil Kessel's 775th-consecutive game played; he has not missed a game in nine-plus seasons, and currently holds the second-longest active streak in the NHL behind only former Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, who now with the Florida Panthers, is a riding a stretch of 797-straight games played.

Kessel has hit pay dirt consistently during his career when matching-up against Anaheim, averaging well over a point-per-game. He has 21 points (9G, 12A) in 16 career games played against the Ducks.

His last game in Anaheim? A three-point (1G, 2A) effort on January 11, 2019, including the game-winning goal in a come-from-behind 7-4 win for the Penguins.

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> PHOTO FINISH <

Nick Schmaltz receives congratulatory praise from Conor Garland after scoring the game-winning overtime goal on December 29, 2018 to secure a 5-4 win for the Coyotes over the Ducks in what stands as Arizona's previous visit to Anaheim's Honda Center. (Photo: Debora Robinson / Getty Images).

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