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Canadiens @ Coyotes: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

The first of seven games in a row away from the Bell Centre takes place in the league’s smallest building.

2022 NHL All-Star Skills Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Arizona Coyotes

How to watch

Start time: **10:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM PST**
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Coyotes region: Bally Sports Arizona X

It was always going to be difficult for the Canadiens to end their 2022 home slate with a win as they welcomed the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Bell Centre. It would have been a good way to leave for their three-game road trip through the western United States ahead of the Christmas break, but the Lightning were simply the better team, capitalizing on many of the chances they got while the Habs once again struggled to find the net, and in the end it was a lopsided defeat.

The loss was the Canadiens’ third in a row after putting in poor efforts versus the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks in the previous two games. Having surprised a lot of people by flirting with a playoff position through the opening two months of the season, this current losing streak has seen them drop to last place in the Atlantic Division.

Now seven points out of a wild-card spot before what is always a rough road schedule at the holidays, the Habs have been looking more like the lottery team that they came into the season projected to be. They can claim to be the best last-place team as they’d rank above at least two clubs in any other division, but that also means they’d be trying to make any charge to a playoff berth through arguably the toughest section in the NHL.

At the end of the three-game journey that starts tonight versus the Arizona Coyotes, we may have a clear picture of whether the Canadiens spend the 2023 portion of the schedule chasing those teams above them or settling back to the bottom of the standings after an energetic start.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Coyotes
Canadiens Statistics Coyotes
14-15-2 Record 9-20-3
45.8% (26th) Scoring-chances-for % 41.0% (31st)
2.74 (28th) Goals per game 2.79 (26th)
3.55 (25th) Goals against per game 3.66 (28th)
14.0% (32nd) PP% 20.0% (22nd)
79.0% (16th) PK% 76.6% (20th)
1-0-0 H2H Record 0-1-0

It’s not going to be the battle for the first overall pick that we saw between these two teams down the stretch a year ago. The Chicago Blackhawks are cementing themselves in the cellar now that the Ducks have decided to win some games, and couldn’t even be bothered to put on a good show in the 1000th game for both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane last night as they fell by a 7-1 score.

As there is with the Canadiens, there’s a lot of hope for the future with this Coyotes team. Their consolation prize for not winning the first or even second overall pick in the 2022 Draft Lottery was Logan Cooley, who is having a very good year in the NCAA and could turn out to be the best centre of the class. Arizona just loaned Dylan Guenther to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championship following an encouraging 21-game stint in which he posted 11 points. Twenty-year-old rookie Matias Maccelli is in the conversation for the Calder Trophy this season with 21 points in 27 games. And Clayton Keller seems to be enjoying life in the Grand Canyon State, a point-per-game player on a team that doesn’t score many goals.

Many of the league’s insiders are also anticipating a big haul of draft picks and prospects once Arizona has a buyer for Jakob Chychrun. The defenceman has been boosting that value further with 12 points in 13 games played since rejoining the team following an injury, good enough to rank sixth in team scoring already. It would be ideal for the team to keep him and build around him, but that doesn’t seem to be a viable option at this point.

Conversely, the Canadiens’ defensive situation is looking very stable. They have not just one or two building blocks, but four viable long-term options just starting their NHL careers this season, and a handful more in the pipeline. Facing off against Guenther at the World Juniors will be Lane Hutson of Team USA and Adam Engström of Team Sweden, two players also putting together great draft-plus-one seasons. One or both of Logan Mailloux and Justin Barron could craft a path to the NHL from their toolbox of talents as well.

For right now, however, the Canadiens remain without one of their veteran blue-liners, David Savard, who had been a fixture on a strong penalty kill that has begun to fall off substantially. Montreal has surrendered six power-play goals in the last four games, and what was once a top-10 penalty-killing unit has slipped to 16th. It was one of the strong aspects of the team that helped hold them afloat early, but both special-teams situations are conspiring against them at the moment. A fairly competent Coyotes man advantage (20.0%) could easily capitalize on this weakness, and ultimately that could be the difference — as it has often been recently — in the game tonight.