If the season stats are any indication, expect plenty of goals to be scored when the Detroit Red Wings visit the Arizona Coyotes for a Saturday evening contest.
Entering the game, the Red Wings and Coyotes are two of the three worst defensive teams in the National Hockey League.
The Red Wings and Coyotes have given up 65 goals, tied for second-worst in the league. Detroit reached that number by surrendering five goals to a short-handed Vegas Golden Knights team on Thursday in a 5-2 loss.
Despite missing nearly half of its usual regulars due to injuries or COVID protocols, Vegas had no trouble finding the back of the net against a porous Detroit defense.
It’s something that Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill knows is a problem.
“Statistically, we are one of the worst defensive teams in the league,” Blashill said. “We have to become a better defensive team. Defensively, we are not even close. To me, there’s also a bright light there at the end of the tunnel that says if we get way better defensively, we can be a good hockey team. We’ve been a good team when we are attacking and on the puck. But we have to get better defensively.”
Perhaps even worse for Detroit is that one of the top rookies in the league so far this season, defenseman Mortiz Seider, limped off the ice late in the third period of the loss to Vegas. His status for Saturday is uncertain.
But for as many issues as Detroit has had defensively, Arizona has had just as many.
Arizona is coming off a 5-4 shootout loss at home to Columbus on Thursday, but the Coyotes enter feeling as good as they have all season.
Arizona has earned three points in its last two games following a win over St. Louis and the shootout loss to Columbus, which represents half of their point total for the season.
The Coyotes enter with six points on the year, the worst in the NHL.
“I think we showed a lot of character,” Coyotes head coach Andre Tourigny said to the Arizona Republic following the Columbus game. “When they scored their third goal, we came back right away and scored our third goal, and same thing in the third when they took the lead.”
If Arizona is to earn at least a point in a third consecutive game, it will have to slow down Detroit’s top line of rookie Lucas Raymond (seven goals, 11 assists in 19 games), Tyler Bertuzzi (nine goals, eight assists in 16 games) and Dylan Larkin (eight goals, seven assists in 15 games).
Larkin had to be pulled in the second intermission from Detroit’s loss to Dallas on Tuesday due to COVID protocols, but he was able to play at Vegas on Thursday after his test proved to be a false positive.
Arizona has been led in scoring this year by Shayne Gostisbehere (two goals, 11 assists in 17 games), the only player on the roster who has reached double figures in points so far.
This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season. Arizona will play at Detroit on March 8.
–Field Level Media