Antti Raanta ready to go for Coyotes’ home opener
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet checked in one last time with goalie Antti Raanta and goalie coach Jon Elkin on Saturday morning and heard what he needed to hear. Raanta will make his first regular-season start as a Coyote and as a No. 1 goaltender on Saturday night against the Vegas Golden Knights at Gila River Arena.
“You should have seen some of the saves he made yesterday in the morning skate,” Elkin said Friday. “It was crazy, watching him stretching. He’s 100 percent as far as I can see. There are no limitations. He’s real sharp.”
Raanta suffered what he called a spasm in his only preseason appearance, a 5-4, shootout loss at San Jose in which Raanta allowed four goals on 32 shots and left after two periods. He was cleared to play in the season opener on Thursday in Anaheim, but Tocchet and Elkin wanted him to get a couple more practices before playing.
“I feel good,” Raanta said. “Every day has been a little progress and the last two to three days you started to feel the sharpness in my movements and you’re seeing the puck good.
“Maybe first practice when I came back, I was kind of hesitating in some movements but when the training staff said ‘go for it’ and then you start making those split saves and whatever saves you try to make, you just forget it. It’s been feeling good and I think it’s behind us.”
Tocchet admitted there is some concern that Raanta has not played or practiced much since suffering the injury.
“He hasn’t been on the ice for a couple weeks here in training camp. He really only had one good practice,” Tocchet said. “I’m not a big fan of guys missing training camp. You can see guys who have missed it, they’re a little rusty so that’s why we’ve got to get guys in and playing and sort it out.”
Goaltending is still a great unknown for Tocchet. Raanta has never been a No. 1 goalie so Tocchet has no idea what he’ll get and he has no idea what the game split will be between Raanta and backup Louis Domingue.
“We’re going to need Louis to give us some good games regardless of how many games Antti plays. You want to keep him mentally sharp, physically sharp,” Tocchet said. “Whatever the workload is, I’m not sure about that yet. It depends on the goalies you have. Your philosophy changes with what type of goalies you have and who can handle what.”
Elkin said in a perfect world, the staff would have eased some of those concerns in the preseason.
“It would be nice to work some things out and understand exactly where he’s at as far as games go,” Elkin said. “It would have been a luxury, but I’m not overly concerned. The guy’s a 29-year-old veteran. He knows how to prepare. He’s played the game before. He knows how to figure it out and battle.”
Raanta said he is trying not to let nerves and excitement get the better of him in his first meaningful game with his new team.
“When you step out for the first time in a regular season game in your home building, you want to prove that you can do the job,” he said. “I remember the first preseason game when I was playing it was just chaos. I think it was chaos inside the team game but it was chaos also in the crease. We watched a little tape. There were still good things but you could tell off the 40 minutes, ‘what were you doing?’
“That was a learning experiment again that you have to just calm down and focus on the right things. The puck will come to you. You don’t have to chase it all the time.”
Golden Knights at Coyotes
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Coyotes — 0-1. Knights — 1-0.
Injury report: Coyotes — D Jakob Chychrun (knee) is on injured reserve. Knights — None.
Scouting the Knights: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet won a pair of Stanley Cup championships together the last two seasons in Pittsburgh… The Knights played Friday in Dallas. … C Vadim Shipachyov and D Shea Theodore remain assigned to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, with Vegas trying to maneuver its roster because it has nine defensemen (plus Clayton Stoner on injured reserve).