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Tonight’s gold-medal game will be one for Coyotes fans to watch

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The Arizona Coyotes may be enduring another tough season, but their bright future will be on full display tonight in Montreal when the United States and Canada play for gold at the World Juniors.

The Coyotes have a key player on each team. For USA, it’s center Clayton Keller, the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft. For Canada, it’s center Dylan Strome, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Both players are among the tournament leaders in scoring, each with three goals and seven assists in six games.

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In the last few years, the Coyotes have also drafted the likes of Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, and Jakob Chychrun, while adding a number of youngsters via trade in Tobias Rieder, Anthony Duclair, Anthony DeAngelo, and Lawson Crouse.

“In my opinion, the organization has never had this level of talent before at this level, so the future is certainly bright,” GM John Chayka said this past summer, via the Coyotes’ website.

Of course, there is still the matter of translating all that talent into success at the NHL level. The Coyotes aren’t the only team with a bumper crop of prospects. For the years of losing to be worthwhile, it will all have to come together in the next couple of seasons. And let’s face it, that’s the toughest part of any rebuild. The first part — tearing it down and being intentionally bad — is relatively easy.

But with centers like Strome, Keller and Dvorak in the organization, the Coyotes have a great chance to be successful. At the very least, they have a promising succession plan for Martin Hanzal, who’s likely to be traded before the deadline.

As for the back end, that very much remains a work in progress. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is only locked up through 2018-19, and you can bet he’ll want to see the team make progress before he considers re-signing.

But the Coyotes did draft Chychrun 16th overall in June, and the fact he’s been able to play in the NHL as an 18-year-old is encouraging. DeAngelo, the 19th overall pick in 2014, was acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, and though he needs to start acting with more discipline, he’s produced a decent amount of offense for a 21-year-old d-man, with three goals and six assists in 20 games this season.

The Coyotes may still need to upgrade their defense further, and that’s never easy or cheap. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers.

The goaltending has also been inconsistent, and Mike Smith turns 35 in March. That’s another problem for Chayka to solve.

But Coyotes fans should enjoy tonight’s big game in Montreal. One of Keller or Strome is guaranteed to win gold, and silver for the other isn’t too shabby either.

Related: Coyotes prospect Strome to captain Canada at World Juniors

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.