NHL Hockey

Final 1 2 3 Tot
Washington 0 2 2 4
Arizona 1 1 0 2
6:00 PM PT7:00 PM MT8:00 PM CT9:00 PM ET2:00 GMT10:00 7:00 PM MST9:00 PM EST6:00 UAE (+1)21:00 ETNaN:� BRT, December 6, 2018
Gila River Arena, Glendale, Arizona  Attendance: 11,910

Upstart Coyotes brace for Capitals

Washington Capitals at Arizona Coyotes

  1. The Capitals fell to the Golden Knights, 5-3, in Vegas on Tuesday, and have now lost two in a row for the first time since November 9 and 11. The Caps haven't lost three straight since January 18-21, 2018, and haven't lost three straight in regulation since March 2017.
  2. Jakub Vrana had a pair of goals in the loss to Vegas, just his second career multi-goal game. Vrana led all Capitals rookies last year with 27 points (13g, 13a) and is already at 16 points this season (8g, 8a).
  3. Washington is just 2-3-1 in its last six against the Coyotes, including a 4-1 loss at home on November 11 of this season. The caps have just one win in their last seven trips to Arizona (1-4-2), coming on November 18, 2014.
  4. The Coyotes beat the Kings, 2-1, in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and have now won four in a row, their second winning streak of at last four games this season. Between 2012-13 and 2017-18, they had just three such streaks.
  5. Adin Hill now has a 0.56 GAA in his 5 appearances for Arizona this season. That's the lowest GAA by any NHL goalie over his first 5 games of a season in the past 25 years; the next best is 0.60 by Boston's Tim Thomas in 2010-11.
  6. Lawson Crouse scored a shorthanded goal against the Kings, giving Arizona a league-leading 11 this season. The Coyotes are on pace for just under 35 shorthanded goals this year. The NHL record is 36, set by the 1983-84 Oilers.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes were coming off lopsided home-ice losses to Calgary (6-1) and Colorado (5-1) when general manager John Chayka, unable to wait any longer for more offense, went out and traded for forward Nick Schmaltz.

One game later, with the Coyotes down 3-1 to the Minnesota Wild going into the third period on the road, goaltender Antti Raanta left with a lower-body injury. With backup Darcy Kuemper already injured, coach Rick Tocchet was forced to insert the team's AHL goalie, Adin Hill.

Remarkably, the Coyotes -- on the verge of playing themselves out of contention only 10 days ago -- haven't lost since.

Arizona will take a four-game winning streak, some momentum and some growing confidence into its Thursday night game against the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, who, only a few days ago, had all of the above and more.

But the Capitals have lost their last two following a seven-game winning streak and, in a 5-3 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday, may have lost top-line right wing Tom Wilson for a while with a head injury. Wilson, arguably the NHL's most notorious hitter, was leveled by a blindside hit from Vegas forward Ryan Reaves so hard that it knocked Wilson's helmet off.

The Capitals (15-9-3) didn't practice Thursday in advance of the second game of a three-game road trip, a day off that gave them time to think about all they didn't like about the loss in Las Vegas.

Namely, losing Wilson and allowing two goals by former Washington defenseman Nate Schmidt in the final two minutes of the game.

"Reaves targeted him (Wilson) the entire game," Capitals coach Todd Rierden said. "You could hear it on every faceoff, you could hear the things that were being said. And it's a blindside hit where an unsuspecting player hits his head on the ice. So that's disappointing. You can put two and two together, but he targeted him the entire game."

Washington already is without forward T.J. Oshie, who sustained the fifth concussion of his career against the Winnipeg Jets three weeks ago.

Hill, one of the NHL's unlikeliest success stories this season, will make his fourth consecutive start on Thursday at Gila River Arena. He is 2-0 with an 0.56 goals-against average following the Coyotes' 2-1 win at the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, when more than a handful of his 25 saves were difficult ones.

The Coyotes' special teams produced both goals. Schmaltz scored his fourth of the season on the power play and forward Lawson Crouse scored the team's league-leading 11th short-handed goal.

But it's Hill that's been truly special. And coach Rick Tocchet isn't about to sit down a goaltender who has made 85 saves on 87 shots.

"He's unflappable right now," Tocchet said. "He's feeling it, and it's a nice story. ... He's come in and he's put the plug in for us and he's holding the fort. We'll just keep going from there."

The Coyotes thought Raanta might be ready by now, but he didn't practice Wednesday and Tocchet said Hill would start again.

"It's nice to know the staff here in Arizona has confidence in me, and I want to give them no reason not to," Hill said.

Schmaltz, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, has given the Coyotes' top line a much different look since Tocchet put him at center between Alex Galchenyuk and Clayton Keller before a 3-0 win at Nashville on Nov. 29. In the three games since, Keller and Schmaltz have two goals and three assists apiece and Galchenyuk has an assist.

"They've got some chemistry going," Tocchet said. "And they're going to get better. There's another level between those guys."

The Capitals and Coyotes split their two games last season, with each winning in overtime on their home ice. The Coyotes (13-11-2) already have won 13 games; they didn't win their 13th game last season until Feb. 8.

Updated December 6, 2018

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