Bruins look to continue hot run vs. youthful Coyotes
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes and Boston Bruins are trying to achieve the same thing. They're just going about it in different ways as they prepare to face each other on Saturday at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.
After missing the 2016 postseason, both clubs resolved to infuse more youth into their lineups this season.
While Arizona added five rookies to a roster that already includes four second-year players, the Bruins have tried to blend 23-year-old forward Austin Czarnik and 20-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo in with a veteran group to increase team speed and regain their playoff form.
“We know where our better players are in their careers, and we have an idea of how many more good years they have left to be at the top of their game, and it's very important for us to add pieces around them to compete again for a Cup,” team president Cam Neely told NESN. “That has to happen sooner rather than later.”
The Bruins have been a mixed bag so far, going 8-6-0 in their first 14 games while scoring and allowing 37 goals. Veterans Brad Marchand, David Krejci and third-year player David Pastrnak have produced, but Boston hasn't seen enough depth in its scoring.
Boston's third line had gone 10 straight games without a point before Matt Beleskey scored in a 5-2 win over Columbus on Thursday.
“Our skating legs are something (coach Claude Julien) has talked to us about,” Beleskey told the Boston Globe on Thursday. “Skating, getting some speed in the neutral zone, getting in on the forecheck. When you're doing that, things start happening for you like they did tonight.”
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett is just looking for some consistency from his youth-laden group. Arizona (5-8-0) has only put together back-to-back wins once this season. The Coyotes are coming off a 3-2 loss at home on Thursday to the Winnipeg Jets.
“We have moments when we're good and moments when we're not good,” said captain Shane Doan, who has just one goal and three assists a year after leading the team with 28 goals. “I'm more frustrated with myself than I am with the team. I think I can be a lot better. I think we've lost four games by a goal and I haven't really done much. I have not even been close. I've been terrible.”
Arizona has also battled key injuries to starting goalie Mike Smith (left leg) and center Martin Hanzal (lower body).
“Those injuries become bigger factors when you need stability from your veteran players because you have so many young players playing,” Tippett said.
Smith took part in drills at Friday's practice but is still at least a week away from returning. Hanzal skated before the team but left the ice and will not play on Saturday.
The team should get defenseman Michael Stone (upper body) back in lineup on Saturday. He has missed the last six games and nine overall this season.
Boston recalled forward Sean Kuraly from Providence on Friday morning and he joined the team for the road trip to replace Noel Acciari, who is expected to be out for roughly four weeks with a lower-body injury.
Kuraly was recalled on an emergency basis last week and made his NHL debut in the Bruins' 4-3 win over Tampa Bay last Saturday.
Goalie Anton Khudobin, who has missed nearly a month with an upper-body injury, is traveling with the team. Defenseman Kevan Miller (hand) is out another two weeks.
Tuukka Rask is expected to start in goal for Boston while Louis Domingue will get the nod for Arizona.