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Arizona Coyotes rookie Dylan Strome scores first NHL goal

Arizona Coyotes' Dylan Strome, right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The goal was Strome's first career NHL goal. The Coyotes defeated the Devils 5-0. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — In 18 games this season, center Dylan Strome has been red hot, scoring eight goals and 18 assists — with the American Hockey League’s Tucson Roadrunners.

After starting the season with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, the former No. 3 overall draft pick was soon sent back to Tucson, but he made it count. He was twice named AHL Player of the Week and was Rookie of the Month in November. In addition to those honors, he earned a call back up to the show.

In the Coyotes’ 5-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night, Strome scored his first NHL goal.

“Since I got called up, I’ve felt a lot more comfortable,” he said. “Obviously the first game is a different level, different pace — the first game back against Edmonton was a little bit of an adjustment period but I think two nights ago against Calgary and tonight I felt very comfortable.

“I feel like my game’s coming around and hopefully I can keep going tomorrow.”

In the third period, as the Coyotes led 4-0, Christian Fischer entered the offensive zone with the puck and dropped it back for Strome. He skated toward New Jersey goaltender Keith Kinkaid and shot it five hole to make it 5-0.

Maybe the goal was just a continuation of his offensive success in the AHL in the first part of the year.

“I think it helps,” he said of his hot start in the American League. “You’re kind of in hockey mode and your midseason form. It feels good to be out there and having fun with the guys.”

Strome played center on Saturday for the first time in this most recent NHL stint, though he had played wing on Tuesday in Edmonton and on Thursday in Calgary. In addition to his goal, he was 55 percent in the faceoff circle and saw 11:32 of ice time, playing on a line with Fischer and Anthony Duclair.

“For me, Dylan is defensive zone coverages for me, that’s how I judge on him,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “He was really good down low. I thought he was in good position. If he’s in good position, the other parts of the game will come. I told him, ‘You got rewarded because you played good defense.'”

“He’s a smart player that — he can be a good player in this league.”

LOOSE PUCKS

–Strome said he didn’t have any family in attendance for his first big league tally, and his family wasn’t there to see the first NHL goal of his brother, Ryan Strome, either. Perhaps the third time will be a charm for Matthew Strome, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers this year.

–Arizona goaltender Scott Wedgewood earned the shutout and made a couple of spectacular highlight-reel saves en route to the win over his former team, who traded him to the Coyotes on Oct. 28. Wedgewood finished the night with 27 saves.

–Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo was on hand on Saturday to give the ceremonial puck drop. The D-backs were 93-69 under Lovullo in 2017 and advanced to the NLDS after winning the NL Wild Card game. He was named NL Manager of the Year last month.

–Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen was on New Jersey’s top pairing with Andy Greene. The Coyotes know Vatanen well — he played for six years in the Pacific Division with the Anaheim Ducks before coming to the Devils in a blockbuster trade earlier this week. For his career, he now has four goals and eight assists in 18 games against Arizona.

UP NEXT

The Coyotes now head out on the road to play the second half of a back-to-back. The good news? Their destination isn’t far away.

On Sunday, Arizona will be in Vegas to play the Golden Knights (15-9-1) at 6 p.m. From there, they’ll continue a road trip with games against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday and Chicago Blackhawks next Sunday before coming back home.

Sunday’s game in Vegas will be Arizona’s first Sunday game of the season. The Coyotes have traveled to Vegas once already, falling to the Golden Knights 5-2 in Vegas’ first-ever home game back on Oct. 10.

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