The Arizona Coyotes have lost eight straight games and have the unenviable task Sunday night of facing the Winnipeg Jets, the co-leaders of the Central Division, on the road.
The Coyotes come into the game off a 2-1 road loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, one in which a short span in the second period put the Coyotes in a hole they couldn’t escape. Mats Zuccarello and Frederick Gaudreau scored 51 seconds apart to give the Wild a 2-0 lead.
Lawson Crouse scored his team-leading 16th goal of the season in the third period for the Coyotes, but Wild goaltender Marc Andre-Fleury allowed nothing else as he made 27 saves.
“Crouser is such an energy-bringer for us,” Arizona head coach Andre Tourigny said.. “He works so hard on both sides of the puck. He goes at the net. He shoots the puck hard. He plays the game the right way.”
The Coyotes have been outscored 33-15 during this skid, so perhaps the close game was a moral victory. They haven’t won since a 6-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs capped a 3-0-0 homestand on Dec. 29.
“I thought we defended well tonight,” said goaltender Connor Ingram, who turned in a 25-save performance. “We were throwing pucks and people at the net. Sometimes bounces will go your way, and sometimes they won’t.”
Everything is working right for the Jets, who are tied atop the Central Division with the Dallas Stars with 57 points. Winnipeg picked up its seventh win in the past eight games on Friday in Pittsburgh, beating the Penguins 4-1.
Mark Scheifele scored two goals, giving him a team-leading 26 for the season, and Cole Perfetti tallied three assists.
“That was probably one of the best games we played all year,” coach Rick Bowness said after the game. “It really was, in terms of how we wanted to play and how to be successful going forward. There were no passengers tonight. Everyone contributed.”
That includes defenseman Dylan DeMelo, who had a pair of assists to give him 12 on the season. His 14 points are one more than he recorded last season in 76 games. There’s plenty of time left in the season to surpass his career high in points — 22 on four goals and 18 assists — set in the 2018-19 season with the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s something I’ve tried to grow in my game, be more offensive,” DeMelo said.
Forward Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist against the Penguins. Drafted No. 5 overall in 2004 by the Coyotes franchise, Wheeler is on the cusp of 900 career points. He has 896 points (306 goals, 590 assists) in 1,080 career games with the Boston Bruins and the Jets franchise.
Kyle Connor, in his seventh season with the Jets, also is on the verge of reaching two career milestones. He has 199 goals and 198 assists in 427 games, all with the Jets, who selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
–Field Level Media