Most NHL teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, enjoy a mid-winter trip to Arizona.
It’s a chance to thaw out for a few days in the middle of winter up north.
Oh, and more often than not, it’s a pretty good time to collect a couple of points, because it’s been a long time since the Coyotes were a very good team.
That certainly should be the focus for the Penguins, who are 0-4-2 in their past six games, as they prepare to face Arizona tonight at 7:08 Eastern at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
Despite their issues in recent weeks, that doesn’t seem unreasonable, considering that they have won nine games in a row against Arizona. That’s the Penguins’ longest active winning streak against any opponent.
The Coyotes have been collecting promising young talent — including West Mifflin native Logan Cooley, who was selected by Arizona with the third choice in the 2022 NHL draft and is spending this season at the University of Minnesota — for quite a few years, but it still isn’t showing up in the standings.
They are anchored in seventh place in the Central Division and, while the Coyotes haven’t been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the chances of them qualifying this season are slightly worse than those of Arizona conducting an election that’s free of controversy.
Arizona is coming off a 0-for-4 road trip and will be playing for the third time in four days. It’s worth noting, though, that the Coyotes are 7-3-2 at Mullett Arena, their undersized and temporary home on the campus of Arizona State.
The Penguins, meanwhile, have not played since their 5-2 loss in Las Vegas Thursday, and have slipped out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
They haven’t won a game since before Christmas shopping reached the panic level — 3-2 over the New York Rangers on Dec. 20, to be precise — and haven’t won on the road since defeating Florida Dec. 15.
Getting his power play in synch for this game could be critical for Mike Sullivan and his staff tonight. After being so effective for so many weeks, the Penguins are 0-for-15 with the extra man in their past three games; facing an opponent with one of the NHL’s most leaky penalty-kills should help, in that regard.
Arizona is averaging 10 minutes, 52 seconds of penalties per game, so the Penguins should get several opportunities to capitalize on a man-advantage/
The Penguins will not hold a game-day skate, so the team’s media-relations department will send out an email a couple of hours before the opening faceoff identifying the starting goaltender and passing along any pertinent personnel/injury information.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Expected Arizona Coyotes Lines
Penguins power play: 28 for 130, 21.5%, 18th
Penguins penalty-kill: 20 for 122, 86.9%, 20th
Coyotes power play: 25 for 121, 20.7%, 3rd
Coyotes penalty-kill: 40 for 145, 72.4%, 26th
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Evgeni Malkin has four career game-winning goals against Arizona.
Chad Ruhwedel does not have a point in his past 15 games.
Sidney Crosby averages 1.52 points per game against Arizona, the highest figure of any active player. He had a goal and two assists in the Penguins’ season-opening 6-2 victory over the Coyotes.
Casey DeSmith stopped 39 shots in a 4-0 victory over the Coyotes Nov. 10, 2018, his only career start against Arizona.
Minnesota is the only NHL team with a longer active winning streak against a particular opponent than the one the Penguins have against Arizona. The Wild have won 13 in a row against Anaheim.
Arizona averages a league-low 25 shots per game, while allowing 34.5.
The Coyotes dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen for their 2-0 loss in Chicago Friday, which coach Andre Tourigny does on a regular basis.
Arizona is 9-12-3 when it has one day between games, which will be the case tonight.
Arizona forward Nick Schmaltz has at least one point in eight of his past 10 games.
The Coyotes are the third-worst faceoff team in the league, winning just 45.2 percent of their draws.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 the X