First and foremost, General Manager Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett still have to decide which three players will be cut from the roster this weekend so the team can get to the NHL-mandated 23-player limit for the start of the regular season next week.
Goalie Louis Domingue is expected to be one of the three players trimmed from the roster. The other two subtractions will be forwards. But which ones? It’s a tough question that Friday’s game will help answer.
At this point it appears prospects Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Matthias Plachta and Dylan Strome are competing directly for two jobs. Then again, perhaps a third will make the team and a veteran may find himself elsewhere on Monday.
Strome, whom the Coyotes drafted with the third overall pick in June, is pleased he’s still in the mix this deep in camp. The 18-year-old is approaching the preseason finale with poise that exceeds his age.
“It’s the same as every other preseason game,” Strome said. “They seem to like what I’ve been doing so I’m just going to try to continue that and hopefully my dreams can come true next Friday.”
Strome, who has scored one goal in four preseason games, is referring to the regular-season opener at Los Angeles on Oct. 9.
Domi wants to be there, too. Unlike Strome and Duclair, he has yet to score a goal in the preseason (not counting a goal in the Red vs. White scrimmage).
Tippett said coaches have been working with Domi during recent practices on ways to help him get more time with the puck.
“I’m still taking it day by day and trying to take in as much as possible and just get comfortable and help the team win,” Domi said.
Duclair has played only two preseason games because of a lower-body injury, but he’s expected to play on Friday on a line with his pal Domi and center Antoine Vermette.
Plachta, competing in his first NHL training camp, has exceeded expectations. The Coyotes like his size and Tippett likes his wrist shot – which he called the hardest in camp.
Tippett also likes the way the hungry prospects have pumped more life into the dressing room.
“I think our young guys are really giving our team energy right now,” Tippett said. “You talk to ‘Doaner’ and you talk to ‘Vermy’ and they love the energy around here, which is going to be a bright spot for our team all year.”
Aside from filling roster spots, Friday’s game also is important because the Coyotes will enter the game 0-4-1 in the preseason, and they’ve been outscored, 17-4, including 5-0 in the past two games at Vancouver and Edmonton.
No team wants to enter the regular season winless in the preseason and mired in a scoring slump. That’s especially true when there is a week in between the preseason finale and the regular season opener.
“I don’t think anyone is, by any means, losing too much sleep over it at this point, but at the same time you’re definitely aware of it,” captain Shane Doan said when asked about the lack of goals this preseason. “It’s impossible not to be.”
Tippett is concerned, too, but he liked the way the Coyotes played at Vancouver – a 1-0 loss on Monday night.
“The way our schedule has been set up we’ve had one game (at Vancouver) with our whole lineup in and I liked how many chances we created in that game, so that gives me some hope,” Tippett said. “But that being said, when you get opportunities you’ve got to capitalize on them and we certainly haven’t done enough of that.”
A third story line surrounding Friday’s game centers around Doan. The captain, who will turn 39 next week, has played just one of five preseason games because of a lower-body injury. Doan has been practicing with teammates the past two days and wants to play on Friday, but he may decide to sit this one out, too, just to be safe.
Asked if he’s worried about playing so few games in the preseason, Doan said he is not.
“I’ve had experiences in the past where I had great preseasons and things didn’t go the way you wanted (in the regular season), and I’ve had bad ones and everything seemed to work out great,” Doan said.
And if all that intrigue isn’t enough, fans attending Friday’s game will get to witness a 3-on-3 overtime session regardless of the score after 60 minutes.
So far this NHL preseason a goal has been scored in about 75 percent of the 3-on-3 overtimes played, much to the League’s pleasure.
Starting this season, NHL overtimes will consist of a maximum of five minutes of 3-on-3 unless a goal is scored. A shootout will be staged if neither team scores during overtime.