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Coyotes go for three; Kessel, McDavid debut at home

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

Many hockey pundits predicted the Arizona Coyotes to finish at or near the bottom of the NHL standings this season. Granted, they still have 80 games remaining, but the Coyotes are showing early they're not willing to bow down to anybody.

The Coyotes won their second straight with a 2-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Gila River Arena on Saturday and will look to make it three in a row on Wednesday at the Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-A, PRIME, FS-SD), who have been picked by many to win the Pacific Division.

What's been the biggest reason for Arizona's solid start?

"The play of Mike Smith has been outstanding," coach Dave Tippett said of his No. 1 goaltender. "The second thing that stands out is how hard we work. As group, we work hard. Each individual, you have a different way of working hard. You watch Tobias Rieder work, and it's quickness, skill. You watch Nicklas Grossmann work, and it's heavy and hard.

"We have a good combination of people doing what they're supposed to and doing it [to] the maximum of their capabilities."

Here are other games that should garner plenty of attention:

Tuesday, Oct. 13: Montreal Canadiens at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; RDS, CITYM, ROOT) -- Right wing Phil Kessel makes his home debut for the Penguins, who opened the season last week with road losses at the Dallas Stars and Coyotes. Kessel had the lone goal for Pittsburgh on Saturday, his first goal with the Penguins. Montreal is off to a 3-0-0 start following a 3-1 victory at the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

Thursday, Oct. 15: St. Louis Blues at Edmonton Oilers (9 p.m. ET; FS-MW, SNOL) -- After months of anticipation, Oilers center Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick at the 2015 NHL Draft, will play his first game in Edmonton. McDavid is still seeking his first point after the Oilers were held to one goal through their first two games in losses at St. Louis and the Nashville Predators. Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and an assist through the first two games of the season.

Friday, Oct. 16: San Jose Sharks at New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, MSG+) -- Sharks coach Peter DeBoer returns to New Jersey after the Devils relieved him of his duties on Dec. 26 of last year following a 12-17-7 start. DeBoer, who guided New Jersey to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, has won his first two games behind the Sharks bench.

Saturday, Oct. 17: Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-O, WGN) -- Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad, a key component to the Blackhawks' runs to the Stanley Cup last season and in 2013, plays his first game at United Center since being traded to Columbus on June 30. Saad scored eight goals for the Blackhawks during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings -- The power forward had a breakout season in 2014-15 when he scored a career high 23 goals to help the Red Wings clinch a playoff spot for the 24th consecutive season. Abdelkader is picking up where he left off with four goals through the first two games.

"He's been taking steps here the last three years here as soon as he got the opportunity to play more," linemate Henrik Zetterberg said of Abdelkader. "He's taking advantage of it. Even this year, he's playing on the PK and does a really good job. Those kind of players, you don't see them all that often in the League -- strong, big guys that really can do everything and score goals too."

Oscar Lindberg, New York Rangers -- Lindberg had to scratch and claw just to make the Rangers' roster, but the rookie center has played a huge role in New York's 3-0-0 start. Lindberg, who turns 24 on Oct. 29, scored his third and fourth goals of the season in a 5-2 win against the Blue Jackets in the Rangers' home opener at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

"Coming into this year, I think just knowing the system a little more since having the same in Hartford that is making me feel more comfortable," Lindberg said of making the jump from the American Hockey League to the NHL. "Being around these guys, they are helping me a lot and talking to me. So I think it feels better every game."

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks -- There was a bit of skepticism when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson acquired Jones on June 30 whether the latter could be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, but Jones is quieting the doubters with his start. In his first two games with San Jose, the 25-year-old has allowed one goal on 47 shots, including a 2-0 win against Anaheim on Saturday for his first shutout of the season and eighth in 36 career games.

"He was fantastic, composed, gives you a real calm feeling back there," DeBoer said.

LINE CHANGES

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings -- Battling against early-season struggles, Kings coach Darryl Sutter has moved Brown to the top line alongside Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. Los Angeles has been outscored 9-2 in back-to-back losses.

"We need some more from the forwards, and then if you break that up even farther, and you break it up into lines or power plays, you break it like that -- more from our centermen, like that -- I think that our top two lines were not getting enough quality looks where it's one-and-done or in the cycle part of it or the support part of it in the forecheck," Sutter said, according to LA Kings Insider. "We're just not getting enough, so we're kind of looking at it, 'OK, who's playing well, and who looks like they have a hot hand, and who's worked it before,' that sort of thing. I still like pairs. I still like [Gaborik] and [Kopitar], I still like [Tyler Toffoli] and Jeff [Carter], and that's how we do view it, right?

"Brownie's getting lots of good shots and good looks and a lot of time with the puck, so we've just kind of got to look at all that."

Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks -- The 23-year-old has looked fantastic on a line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. Signed as a free agent in May, Panarin has two goals and two assists through three games.

"They've been fun to watch," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I mean, it's been some special plays and special players and puck possession."

Vincent Trochek, Florida Panthers -- Trochek, 22, looked awfully good with center Dave Bolland and left wing Jussi Jokinen on Saturday. A third-round pick at the 2011 draft, Trochek had a goal and three assists in a 7-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We've got a powerful offensive team," Trochek said. "That's going to be huge moving forward. We've got to focus on defense first this year. That's one of our goals and that's what we've talked about a lot and the offense will come."

POINT SHOTS

Bruins center David Krejci, who missed 35 games last season because of a variety of injuries, has a goal and an assist through two games. Krejci is centering the second line with Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak. … Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, typically known for slow starts, is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. … Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau scored two goals Saturday and is nine points shy of 1,000 for his career. … Keep an eye on the Buffalo Sabres' goaltending situation with Robin Lehner expected to miss 6-10 weeks because of a high ankle sprain. Buffalo recalled Nathan Lieuwen from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Saturday.

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