West wild-card contenders Canucks, Coyotes to square off
Two teams in need of points to stay in the Western Conference playoff race meet Thursday night when the Vancouver Canucks visit the Arizona Coyotes. Neither is playing their best hockey as the regular season winds down.
Vancouver (36-27-6, 78 points) is tied for the second wild card thanks most recently to their 5-4 overtime shootout win over the New York Islanders. But they had lost five of six before that, including 4-2 to the Coyotes in Vancouver earlier this month.
New arrival Tyler Toffoli is doing his part, though. The former Los Angeles King, a midseason acquisition for the Canucks, has six goals and four assists in 10 games since being picked up. He had a goal and an assist against the Islanders.
"It's nice to score, but getting a win at this time of year is what we've been looking for as a team," Toffoli told NHL.com. "I know that sounds cliche. It was a lot of fun. Winning is fun. Winning is contagious, and we have to do more of it.
"We've been playing playoff hockey ever since I got here. It was nice for us to pull through," he added.
Vancouver got a career-high 45 saves from Thatcher Demko, and J.T. Miller scored the winning goal in the shootout.
This will be the first of a critical back-to-back road set for the Canucks, who after playing Arizona head straight to Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche, a team that has just about locked up a playoff spot.
Arizona (33-29-8, 74 points) has lost two straight and has 12 games left to make a run at the playoffs. The Coyotes have gone from first place in the Pacific Division back in early December to four points out of a wild-card spot.
An inability to find consistent offense and top players not performing well down the stretch have hurt the Coyotes' chances. Most recently, they lost 4-2 at Winnipeg on Monday, despite leading 4-2 after the first period.
"We didn't talk a lot to each other on the ice and help each other out, and if you don't do that in this building, it's going to be a tough game. So, it was a tough game," captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson told NHL.com.
Arizona does get the next five games at home, starting with the Canucks, but the Coyotes might have to win at least four of them to keep up in the wild-card race.
Star goaltender Darcy Kuemper is back in net after a long-term injury, and Arizona has won five of the last six games against Vancouver, but it could be too late to save the Coyotes' season.
"We've got no choice. We need to pick it up again, and we need some more guys to pull the rope and go at it. There's no other choice," coach Rick Tocchet said. "Obviously, the next game is even bigger and bigger, and we've got to rise to the challenge."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 12, 2020