— NHL (@NHL) February 21, 2017
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes have had more than their share of bizarre backup goalie tales. Last February, Nathan Schoenfeld, who is equipment manager Stan Wilson’s son-in-law and a relations manager at a bank, served as an emergency backup when Anders Lindback suffered a season-ending Achilles injury warming up before a game.
On a road trip during the 2010-2011 season, starter Ilya Bryzgalov became ill and the team used Tom Fenton, a graduate student and hockey coach at Manhattanville College in New York, as its emergency backup.
By comparison, Marek Langhamer’s NHL debut on Monday against Anaheim was a ho-hum tale, but not to Langhamer.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” he said.
Langhamer has seen all points on the Coyotes development system this season. He’s played at all three levels: seven games with the Rapid City Rush of the ECHL, 12 games with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and now the NHL, after Monday’s successful relief appearance.
“We had three goalies in the AHL and obviously I needed to play some games,” he said of playing part of the season in the ECHL. “I was just glad I could play the game and come back up to the AHL. Now I was here backing up [Mike Smith] and got a couple minutes in.”
At 4:29 of the third period, Smith left Monday’s game after Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg collided with him and knocked off his mask earlier in the period. Coach Dave Tippett said a spotter in Toronto contacted the team to remove him as part of the league’s concussion protocol (the Coyotes said Smith was fine after the game and he practiced Tuesday).
The Coyotes went to a power play with Anaheim’s Josh Manson off for high-sticking, giving Langhamer time to ease into his NHL debut.
“They didn’t get anything pretty much at the start and I kind of settled down to be calm for the rest of the game,” he said.
Langhamer did allow Ryan Getzlaf’s goal with 26.8 seconds left — one of eight shots he faced — but he came up big late in the game, stopping Nick Ritchie at the right post and then, after Corey Perry pushed the rebound to the far post, stoning Sami Vatanen on a rebound with one second left to preserve a 3-2 win and improve the Coyotes to 8-4-1 in their last 13 games.
“I made that first save and it stopped right in front of me and Perry made a great play, put it back door so I was just trying to rush to the back post,” Langhamer said. “I was fortunate enough that I could make the save.”
Coach Dave Tippett wasn’t concerned when Langhamer entered the game
“He’s a real calm kid,” Tippett said. “He’s got a solid demeanor about him. When I heard Mike had to go out, I said, ‘Marek, you might want to like stretch or do something down there.’ He’s like, ‘I’ll go in and play.’
“When you know he’s going to be all right is the first couple times he touched the puck he was playing it outside the net; didn’t look nervous at all, looked fine out there. He’s played in the American League a couple years. He’s probably looking forward to this opportunity. Sometimes a player like that, especially a goaltender, sometimes that’s best to throw them in like that where you don’t think all day. First game, in the afternoon you’re laying there thinking about pucks coming at you. Just jump in and away you go. Give him credit.”
Tippett was happy that when he finally had to turn to a backup in an emergency, it wasn’t a banker or a graduate student.
“I feel confident with him. It’s the ones that you look at you’re not sure about going in, that gives you an uneasy feeling,” Tippett said, recalling a moment last season when he asked backup Niklas Treutle if he was ready to play. “I remember looking at him down the bench, it was against St. Louis and I said ‘you ready?’ He looked at me and it was just kind of, ‘you want me to go out there?’
“That one didn’t feel great.”
Trade deadline moves always create opportunity for other players. The first player that general manager John Chayka mentioned after Monday’s trade of Michael Stone to Calgary was 18-year-old, rookie defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
“That opens up some space and some room for him to play some more meaningful minutes,” Chayka said.
Chychrun took advantage on Monday, scoring his fourth goal in his 45th game off the rush in the first period — one more goal than his father, Jeff, scored in a 262-game NHL career.
“With each game I just feel more and more comfortable,” he said. “It’s always nice when there might be a little extra opportunity. I would love to jump on it if I ever get a chance.”
DEALING WITH THE DEADLINE
Veterans, Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan have been through a lot of trade deadlines in their NHL careers, but Coyotes rookies Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, Lawson Crouse and Chychrun are experiencing it for the first time.
Tippett admitted there have been some internal discussions about what to expect during this time and after the deadline, but none of the players believed much needed to be said before Monday’s game — even in the wake of Michael Stone’s trade.
“We all love Stony and we’re all going to miss him,” Dvorak said. “But it’s also a business and we understand that.”
Tippett hopes the feeling of losing a teammate isn’t one that will continue for the franchise in years to come.
“I wish we weren’t sellers. I wish we were buyers,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re sellers. That’s where we are as a team.”
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