While the Arizona Coyotes don’t come around often, they have an element to their game that’s become pretty common around the NHL – they have good young players who can contribute and they’re fast.
That will be on display Friday night when the Buffalo Sabres will host Arizona at First Niagara Center. The Tops Sabres Gamenight pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Arizona has put together a good year so far. The Coyotes are third in the Pacific Division and only four points behind first-place Los Angeles.
They’ve been led by rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. Domi is first on the team with 21 points (8+13) while Duclair has racked up eight goals and 14 points. Arizona has received strong production from Martin Hanzal (5+14), Mikkel Boedker (9+10) and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (6+11) as well.
“We don’t see Arizona all that often, but it’s hard not to notice them this year,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “They have their top two lines have got 18 and 25 goals, respectively with Duclair on the top line and Domi on if you want to call the second line.
“…Speed is going to be a factor. You probably don’t know quite how fast they are until you play against them.
Reinhart won a gold medal for Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship last year while playing on a line with Domi and Duclair. Bylsma said during his press conference after the morning skate that the players were in a meeting where Reinhart’s brain was certainly being picked when it comes to ways to slow the two rookies down.
“Sam is providing some of that information to scout in terms of how to play against those guys – what their strengths are,” Bylsma said.
Arizona is coming off a 5-1 loss to the Red Wings in Detroit on Thursday and the Sabres will look to pounce on them early.
The Sabres sent Tim Schaller to Rochester of the American Hockey League on Thursday so that he could get a game in with the Amerks on Friday. With only 12 forwards on the NHL roster and the team leaving for a three-game road trip to Western Canada this weekend, Bylsma said they will recall a forward before flying out.
Mike Weber is expected to be a scratch on defense.
Chad Johnson will start in goal for the Sabres and he’s coming off a stellar month of November. In seven appearances last month, he went 3-1-1 with a .954 save percentage and a 1.28 goals-against average.
Early in the season, Bylsma said Johnson was giving up a majority of his goals in the blue paint – especially in odd-man situations – on second and third-chance opportunities. Lately, he’s seen improvements there that have led to success.
“Both he and our defensemen have cleaned that area up. Our defenders have allowed our goaltenders for the most part to make one save,” he said. “There haven’t been a lot of second-chance opportunities and I think Johnny’s played extremely strong in that area as well, making that first save and not giving up the second opportunities or the pucks that are in that area for second opportunities.”
Matt Moulson is slated to play in his 500th NHL game tonight. Moulson, 32, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the ninth round of the 2003 NHL Draft. He played four years at Cornell and ended up signing with the Los Angeles Kings in 2006. He really made his mark with the New York Islanders starting in 2009-10 when he posted three-consecutive 30-goal seasons.
In his career, he’s recorded 158 goals and 327 points. He’s currently riding a three-game point streak in which he’s tallied three assists.
“It’s probably 500 more [games] than I thought I’d play about 15 years ago,” he said Friday morning. “It’s nice to get things like that – games played or something. Obviously the biggest thing is winning the Stanley Cup, but you see guys play a lot of games in this League. It’s something to strive towards.”
9 Evander Kane – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
88 Jamie McGinn – 15 Jack Eichel – 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand – 82 Marcus Foligno
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 46 Cody Franson
25 Carlo Colaiacovo – 47 Zach Bogosian
31 Chad Johnson
35 Linus Ullmark