Coyotes, Isles hoping to start uphill climb (Jan 07, 2017)

The Arizona Coyotes couldn’t wait for a New Year’s break. The New York Islanders wanted to keep playing. There was a simple reason for both desires.

Arizona had lost eight straight games without registering a point before their five-day break. Then came Friday’s overtime loss in Anaheim — the Coyotes’ first point since Dec. 15. The Islanders had won four of five before their five-day break, but dropped a 2-1, overtime decision on Friday in Colorado against the Western Conference’s worst team.

“It is tough,” New York coach Jack Capuano told New York Newsday. “We get a little bit of momentum and then we come to the break.”

Both teams are stuck near the bottom of their respective conferences as they meet for the second time this season, needing to gain momentum over the second half of the season. Poor defending has been a common thread. The Islanders are allowing the third-most goals against per game in the NHL at 3.05; the Coyotes have the second-worst mark at 3.23.

To Arizona coach Dave Tippett, it’s all about puck management.

“I think you have to look to your top players,” he said. “Your key veteran players have to lead the way. They’re the guys that have to step out and dictate the pace of the game, the thought process in the game. We’ve got a lot of young players that if they can get out there and get their feet underneath them, hopefully consistency will come to our game. But you need your veteran players to go out there and do the job and get the game going the right way for you.”

The Coyotes could be without a key veteran against the Islanders after center Martin Hanzal left Friday’s game with a lower-body injury after scoring his ninth goal of the season — tied for the team lead. Left wing Jordan Martinook and defenseman Jakob Chychrun also left the game with upper-body injuries. All three are listed as day to day.

The Coyotes are already without veteran center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) and left winger Max Domi (hand) indefinitely. Right winger Ryan White (lower body) is also on injured reserve but could return soon.

Center Alexander Burmistrov did not accompany the Coyotes across the U.S. border after their game in Vancouver on Wednesday. He remained in Vancouver to secure a work visa after the Coyotes claimed him off waivers from Winnipeg. His likely debut will come Friday against his former team in Glendale.

Mike Smith started in goal against the Ducks so the Coyotes could turn to backup Louis Domingue against New York.

Capuano has not ruled out using goalie Thomas Greiss on consecutive nights after he started Friday in Denver. Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) is on the injured non-roster list.

Islanders right wing Ryan Strome had an assist in Friday’s loss to give him eight points in his last nine games, after recording just five points in his first 25 games.