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Exhibition Preview - Vegas vs. Arizona

Golden Knights and Coyotes will play tune up game before Stanley Cup Qualifiers

by Gordon Weigers and Garrett Calloway @GoldenKnights /

Before they meet their opponents in the Round Robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, the Vegas Golden Knights will face the Arizona Coyotes in an exhibition contest at Rogers Place in Edmonton on July 30 at 7 p.m. PT. This will be the first game for both teams in the bubble in which they will play without fans in the building.

The Golden Knights and Coyotes squared off three times during the 2019-20 regular season, as Vegas collected four points while going 2-1-0. Arizona grabbed their lone win in the first matchup on Oct. 10, a 4-1 victory for the home team inside Gila River Arena. The teams met again on Nov. 29, as Alex Tuch lifted Vegas to a 2-1 shootout victory at T-Mobile Arena. Less than a month later, the Golden Knights wrapped the season series with a 4-1 win at home on Dec. 28. Mark Stone scored twice in the season series finale, as Chandler Stephenson and Paul Stastny also chipped in goals.

Arizona was narrowly outscored by Vegas, 7-6, in the season's three matchups. Shea Theodore led the Golden Knights with four points (1 G, 3 A), while Conor Garland paced the way for the Coyotes with three (2 G, 1 A). On the power play, the Golden Knights earned each of the three goals in the series as Alex Tuch, Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson all scored with the man advantage.

The Coyotes completed the regular season fifth in the Pacific Division and 11th overall in the Western Conference. Arizona leaned on its steady defense and goaltending during the shortened season as they finished tied for the third fewest goals allowed in the NHL (183), behind only Boston (167) and Dallas (174). Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta and Adin Hill split starts in goal, as the trio combined for a .923 save percentage and 2.46 GAA during the regular season. Nick Schmaltz led Arizona in scoring with 45 points (11G, 34A), and Clayton Keller followed closely with 44 (17G, 27A). The Coyotes acquired Taylor Hall from the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 16 and the forward collected 27 points (10G, 17A) in 35 games with Arizona.

The trip to the postseason will be the first since 2012 for the Coyotes as they snap a seven-year drought. When last they participated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the then-Phoenix Coyotes reached the Western Conference Final where they fell in five games to the Los Angeles Kings. A period of rebuilding followed, and the Coyotes are looking to reach similar heights this season.

The Arizona roster boasts more than a handful of Stanley Cup rings. Niklas Hjalmarsson is the winningest Coyote as he won three championships with the Chicago Blackhawks from 2010-2015. Phil Kessel won back-to-back cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017 while Alex Goligoski (Pittsburgh, 2009), Brad Richardson (Los Angeles, 2012) and Antti Raanta (Chicago, 2015) have each won the ultimate prize once.

After they take on the Golden Knights, the Coyotes will set their sights on their Stanley Cup Qualifier series with the Nashville Predators. Arizona and Nashville will play a best-of-five series to determine which team will make it to the 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs tournament. Though the Predators finished five spots ahead of the Coyotes in the final standings, Nashville only led Arizona by four points when the regular season came to its abrupt end on March 12. The teams met twice in the regular season with both sides posting identical records of 1-1-0 against the other.

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