Mired in an extended stretch of poor play, especially on the road, the Arizona Coyotes don’t have the look of a playoff team. The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, are doing all they can to just to get into playoff position.
The Coyotes look to avoid a seventh consecutive road defeat when they visit the surging Canadiens on Monday night.
Arizona is currently in the mix for a playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference, but the Coyotes are just 2-7-3 since winning four straight from Dec. 31-Jan. 7. The Coyotes also have just one road victory (a 5-2 win at Florida on Jan. 7) over their past nine games away from home. They opened their four-game Eastern Conference road stretch with a 4-2 loss at Boston on Saturday.
“There’s ups and downs throughout every season. You’re going to have good times and bad times; we’ve just got to get back into those good times,” veteran Phil Kessel, who scored his 12th goal Saturday, told the Coyotes’ official website.
“I believe in this group. We’ve got a great group here, a lot of great young players and we’re going to fight our way out of this and figure it out.”
Arizona can start, perhaps, by fixing a defense that’s allowed 40 non-shootout goals over the past 12 games — nine of them in losing the past two following a 3-0 home win over Edmonton on Feb. 4.
Goaltender Antti Raanta (10-12-3, 2.86 goals-against average) exited after warm-ups on Saturday with an apparent lower-body injury that’s left him day to day. Backup Adin Hill made 29 saves at Boston but has yielded six goals in his past two starts.
The Coyotes also have lost three in a row versus Montreal, which won 4-1 at Arizona on Oct. 30. Jonathan Drouin (seven goals) and Brendan Gallagher (18 goals) each had a goal, and Carey Price made 32 saves for the Canadiens in that contest.
Though Montreal is in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and has some work to do just to reach playoff position, it won for a third straight contest and ninth time in the past 12, 2-1 over visiting Toronto in overtime on Saturday. Marco Scandella scored late in third period to tie the score, and Ilya Kovalchuk won it at 1:43 into the extra session for the Canadiens, who will try to win four in a row for the first time this season.
“I think right now, of course, we’ve got to rely on ourselves, but we’ve got to be aware of what’s going on around the league because every game, every team, it’s so close,” Kovalchuk, who has six goals with six assists in 15 games since joining the Canadiens in early January, told NHL.com.
“We just believe in ourselves.”
Price, who made 22 saves Saturday, has won eight of his past 10 starts. He’s a stellar 12-1-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average in his career against the Coyotes. Backup Charlie Lindgren has a 3.48 goals-against average while going 1-3-0 as a starter this season.
Kessel (32 points), meanwhile, snapped a five-game point drought on Saturday, but has 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 62 games versus Montreal while playing with Arizona, Boston, Pittsburgh and Toronto.
–Field Level Media