Arizona is off to a slow start this season, but the return of goaltender Antti Raanta bodes well for the Coyotes.
The club can salvage a split of its two-game road trip with a win over the host Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night before traveling home to meet the Nashville Predators on Thursday and the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Heading to Manitoba to face the Jets, the Coyotes have lost three times in their first four games — their first two outright in regulation to the Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins, then in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche.
However, the Pacific Division club got a boost in the 3-2 loss to the Avalanche with Raanta returning to action and posting a 29-save outing that ended with Colorado’s Andre Burakovsky netting his second consecutive game-winning goal.
Despite the loss, the Coyotes could enjoy two positive takeaways.
First, the Avalanche don’t lose often in Denver, owning a 19-3-1 mark in their last 23 games on home ice. Also, the Coyotes rallied from a late two-goal deficit to grab a point.
Then there’s the Finnish netminder.
Raanta, 30, hadn’t played in an NHL game since Nov. 27, 2018, when he suffered an upper-body injury that sidelined him the rest of the season. His return to form should bolster a stout goalie tandem with veteran Darcy Kuemper.
“We got down two, but we stuck with it, (Raanta) kept us in it there. Happy to get at least one point,” forward Nick Schmaltz said of the Colorado loss.
However, stay-at-home defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (lower body) left early in the first period, and his status is unknown for Tuesday night.
The Jets are looking to be better than they were Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins — actually, much better.
Playing in its second game in the season’s second of back-to-back sets, Winnipeg was walloped 7-2 by the visiting Penguins.
The result was a disappointing one, even after beating the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime at Chicago on Saturday. The Jets were also sporting a three-game winning streak before Sunday’s debacle.
The contest was Winnipeg’s seventh in 11 days and closed the season series against the Penguins, whom the Jets beat 4-1 on Oct. 8 in Pittsburgh.
On Sunday, Mathieu Perreault and Mark Scheifele tallied for the Jets, but Pittsburgh scored six times in the final two periods. Winnipeg goalie Laurent Brossoit let in all seven markers on 28 shots.
Pittsburgh did score a couple of goals on fortunate bounces, and Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler said he wouldn’t dwell on the setback.
“I feel it’s just an outlier,” the Jets captain said. “I don’t feel it’s indicative of our team. We’ve obviously been behind a fair bit this year, but we’ve stayed in the battle. We’ve fought all year. Every once and a while it’s going to go like that.”
–Field Level Media