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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona Coyotes come to town for NHL game

Chris Lee
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone falls over St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz during first period action on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Tucson will be welcoming a NHL game when the
Anaheim Ducks clash with the Arizona Coyotes for some preseason hockey on
Monday night at the Tucson Convention Center.

The Coyotes are coming off a forgettable season as they
finished sixth in their division, only one point ahead of the Vancouver
Canucks. Meanwhile, the Ducks finished at the top of the same division and made
it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before injuries and bad luck
caught up with them and they lost to the Nashville Predators in six games.

This season both teams will look different, and it will be
for the better. Arizona decided to forego resigning Shane Doan to open up a
roster position for one of countless prospects floating around in junior hockey
leagues or the AHL. Anaheim added established goaltender Ryan Miller to
strengthen their tandem.

The Pacific Division, the division both the Ducks and
Coyotes play in, is one of the most difficult to play in, so fighting for a
spot will be difficult for both teams, but that’s a topic for the regular
season. The preseason is all about the players and individual stories that will
make up those teams, and on Monday night there will be plenty players to keep
an eye on.

RELATED: Column: Tim Gassen weighs in on Wildcat hockey’s future and culture

Since it is preseason hockey and there’s sometimes 50
players vying for a spot, it’s no guarantee who will be playing until the
benches are filled at puck drop, so here’s a few players from each team to
watch if they make the line-up for the game.

On Anaheim’s side they have Brandon Montour, Patrick Eaves, and
Rickard Rakell. Montour was a player who spent time split between the AHL
and NHL and scored more points in the playoffs with the Ducks than he did in
the regular season. The 23-year-old established that he can
play with the big boys and can make an impact in pressure situations. He’s played around a
good amount of the Coyotes players while either in the AHL or NHL so should
easily be a dominant player. If he’s not scoring a goal or two and dancing
around other players, it might be a sign that he might need some more AHL time.

Patrick Eaves was another player who spent little time with
Anaheim during the season but it wasn’t due to development. Eaves was a Dallas
Star to start the season and was traded to Anaheim towards the end of the
season. Eaves wound up playing just 20 games with the Ducks and only seven out of
their 17 playoff games. This preseason game will be an important one to see
where he fits and how he establishes himself with a club he’s still fairly
unfamiliar with. How he plays can help fans tell if this trade was a bust or

And finally, look out for young gun Rickard Rakell. He’s a
bright young player who has already lit up the scoreboard with Anaheim for a
couple years now but with their second-line center Ryan Kesler out of the
line-up after hip surgery, Rakell will have to step up for both himself and the
Ducks. Kesler is an elite, possible top-line center and the Ducks will have to
have Rakell fill in those shoes to the best of his abilities. Look out to see
how he does in the faceoff circle – especially in the defensive zone – against
some inexperienced talent. His success will equate to the success of the Ducks.

REALTED: Orion Olsen named Wildcat hockey captain

As for Arizona, some players to watch are Anthony
Duclair, Ryan MacInnis, and Kyle Wood. Duclair had a miserable time last
season after being fourth on the team with 44 points his rookie season in
2015-16 season. He spent a good chunk of time in Tucson with the Roadrunners and
only managed to get 15 points in 58 games with the Coyotes. Growing pains might
have got to him his second year to initiate a sophomore-slump, so this year
will be a bounce back year for him. It is up in the air as to whether he will
be with the Coyotes or Roadrunners on opening day, so he will likely be playing
hard to ensure he stays in the NHL.

Ryan MacInnis, son of NHL Hall of Famer Al MacInnis, was the
third-line center for the Tucson Roadrunners most of last season. He tallied 17
points (8,9) in 68 games. Notably, this plus-minus was second worst on the team
at –21. MacInnis is a bright young player who showed promise on both ends of
the ice thanks to his defensive positioning and playmaking abilities. He
struggled in the faceoff circle last season, so it will be of interest during
the game to see if he improved. MacInnis also struggled for part of last season
when it came to pressuring the puck, so his aggressiveness will be something to
watch for. At 185 pounds, it also wouldn’t hurt to see if he has got closer
to the 200 mark.

Kyle Wood was a rookie defenseman, AHL all-star, and fan
favorite last season, but struggled towards the end. He lacked confidence in
his shot as the season wore on and he tended to sit back and play stronger
defense and not stick his nose too much into scoring plays as he used to. It
will be important to see how often he tries to make plays or make a difference
offensively to see how the young star has developed after his first off-season.

Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. at the TCC on
Monday, Sept. 25. This will be the first action seen in the Tucson Arena since the
Roadrunners’ last game on April 1st earlier this year. 

Follow Rachel Huston on Twitter

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