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Season preview: Arizona Coyotes

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Season preview: Arizona Coyotes

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Arizona Coyotes

2014-15 record: 24-50-8, 7th in the Pacific

How they finished: Did not make the playoffs

Coach: Dave Tippett (7th season)

Notable additions: D Nicklas Grossmann, C Boyd Gordon, RW Steve Downie, G Anders Lindback, D Zbynek Michalek, RW Brad Richardson, LW John Scott, C Antoine Vermette (sort of, was traded from Arizona to Chicago mid-season and signed back with Arizona)

Notable subtractions: C Sam Gagner, LW Lauri Korpikoski, RW Martin Erat (don't laugh, he still had 32 points last season on a team that struggled to generate offense), RW David Moss

RELATED: Caps get a good deal with Johansson contract

Schedule against the Capitals: Mon. Feb. 22 at Washington, Sat. April 2 at Arizona

Outlook: The Coyotes experienced a horrific season last year, but were denied the light at the end of the tunnel that was either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Despite finishing with the second worst record in the league, they fell to third in the draft after Edmonton won the draft lottery. The Coyotes drafted Dylan Strome and while he certainly has NHL potential, he is not the transformational talent that McDavid and Eichel are. In fact, there's a very good chance that Strome will start the season in the OHL.

So even after a terrible season last year, the Coyotes will head into the fall with nothing to show for it in the short term.

It also doesn't help that the team's offseason has been spent dealing with a lease dispute with the city of Glendale. While the matter appears to be settled for the time being, a two-year agreement does little to instill confidence in any potential free agents.

Arizona's leading scorer last season in both goals and points was Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a 24-year-old defenseman. Ekman-Larsson is an outstanding player who has a long NHL career in front of him, but when your leading scorer is a young defenseman, that's not a recipe for success. Even worse is the fact that the team's second and third leading scorers, Sam Gagner and Keith Yandle, are both gone. Shane Doan is still there and while he will remain a team leader, but at 38-years-old, there's little you can expect from him in terms of production.

The good news is that the Coyotes have some young offensive talent in their system.

Max Domi is the real deal and fans were already getting excited about him last season thanks to plays like this. Because of Arizona's serious lack of offensive depth, Domi looks like a lock for the NHL roster this season. It also would not be surprising to see Anthony Duclair and Brendan Perlini make their NHL debuts this fall as well.

Relying on three players who are not yet old enough to drink to lead the offense may not be the best idea, but this season will not be about winning games so much as getting their young talent NHL experience.

Defensively the team is not starting from scratch. Ekmann-Larsson is turning into a star and Michael Stone looks like he can be a solid top-four, possibly top pair defenseman. The pickup of Nicklas Grossman also adds some veteran leadership. Mike Smith has got to play better in net than he did last season, but there is some definite potential on the blue line.

Expectations: The only thing the Coyotes are going to contend for next season is another high draft pick. The 2015-16 season is not about winning for Arizona, it's about developing the young talent they have accumulated and beginning to build around it.

MORE CAPS: Arbitrator hands down ruling for Marcus Johansson

See more team previews:

Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames 8/3 
Edmonton Oilers 8/4 
Los Angeles Kings 8/5 
San Jose Sharks 8/6 
Vancouver Canucks 8/7

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks 8/8 
Colorado Avalanche 8/9 
Dallas Stars 8/10 
Minnesota Wild 8/11
St. Louis Blues 8/13 
Winnipeg Jets 8/14

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins 8/15 
Buffalo Sabres 8/16 
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20< 
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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USA Today

Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-2) head to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada after an overtime/shootout loss against the Florida Panthers last Friday. 

The Caps are determined to avoid the devastation they felt in the first period when they gave away four goals to the Panthers. They will need to focus in the power plays and avoid penalties at all costs.

Many fans were looking forward to the reunion with former player Jay Beagle, who is now centerman for the Canucks, but he is unfortunately out on injury. However you can look out for Caps Nic Dowd, who will have his own homecoming game against his former team. 

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Canucks which takes place at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.
 

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 8 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

When: Monday, October 22 at 10:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Canucks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Canucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS SCHEDULE

9:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
9:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
10:00 PM: Capitals vs. Canucks
12:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lars Eller, F, Capitals: In his last game, he had a three-point night with three assists. He is a messaive help and shined within the trio of Vrana and Connoly on Friday.

Tim Schaller, F, Canucks: He was struggling in the preseason but came back with a vengeance. He assisted with a penatly kill and is a key component in fourth line. 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

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What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

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USA TODAY

What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. What is his job during the game?

Friday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers was one of the rare games that featured four goalies. Braden Holtby and James Reimer started, but both were ultimately pulled in what was a high-scoring affair. In stepped Pheonix Copley and Michael Hutchinson.

And yet, despite being little more than an afterthought in the team’s preparation for the game, both Copley (one goal allowed on 19 shots, .947 save percentage) and Hutchinson (one goal allowed on 11 shots, .909 save percentage) stepped in and out-performed the starters giving both of their respective teams a chance to win the game.

“It's easier in some aspects,” Holtby said of coming into a game off the bench, something he has done at various points of his career despite being the primary starter for Washington. “I think that's why you see a lot of guys go in and have success right away and have good games because you don't have that day or two days to be getting rid of your thoughts and that kind of thing.”

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. Every team dresses two goalies on the roster for a game. One starts and one sits on the bench as the backup in case he is needed because of injury or because a coach chooses to make a goalie switch. That backup is tasked with being ready at all times to step into the game knowing full well that, if all goes according to plan, he will not get to play at all.

Holtby and Reimer had prepared for Friday’s game knowing they were going to start. Both players took warmups in order to prepare them to play a full game while Copley and Hutchinson had little reason to think they would see any action at all.

By the end of the second period, however, both Holtby and Reimer had been replaced. Copley at least had an intermission to prepare as he came on at the start of the second period while Hutchinson had to step in midway through the second period.

“I guess it can be a little challenging,” Copley said, “But I feel like as long as you’re kind of paying attention to the game and your mind's kind of in that hockey mindset then if something happens, I'll be ready to go.”

Professional athletes are creatures of habit. To have to step into a game unexpectedly with little to no warning or preparation and be expected to perform at the highest level is an incredibly tough mental challenge.

And yet, in many ways, it can be easier than starting.

“The whole thing about mental preparation is so that you go out there not thinking about anything, not worrying about any of that,” Holtby said. “When you're forced in with a matter of 30 seconds, there's no time to think about anything. You just go in and play.”

For goalies, not starting does not mean having the night off. Both coaches and teammates alike can lean upon a backup netminder as an extra set of eyes.

“Sometimes they'll ask a question like did it look like I had room there?” Copley said. “Was it a shot or missed? Did you see what happened on this play? So I just try to be there and watch.”

Some coaches even give goalies assignments in game, though that practice seems to be on the decline.

“I know [Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock] makes them look at faceoffs or something,” Holtby said. “It's pretty archaic. There's guys that do that now that are better than the backup goalie at looking at things.”

In truth, there is no defined in-game requirements for most goalies in the NHL when they sit as backups and that is true of the Caps’ tandem. That makes the job of a backup a very simple one.

“I just try and be ready if I have to go in,” Copley said. “Make sure I'm physically and mentally ready and be a good teammate.”

Holtby put it even more succinctly as he said, “Don't do anything stupid.”