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Coyotes’ Richard Panik still trying to regain scoring touch

Arizona Coyotes right wing Richard Panik (14) has his shot stopped by Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert (11) and Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, second from left, during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Richard Panik fired 42 shots on goal between Oct. 24 and Jan. 7. None of them went in the net.

As the weight of all those returned pucks piled up, Panik’s confidence sagged.

“I had so many chances,” he said. “Maybe if it goes in you feel more confident. Instead, you are thinking ‘I’m not scoring’ and even on your days off you’re thinking about it. You just try to work hard, stay positive but sometimes it’s so hard.”

Panik broke the slump in his last game as a Blackhawk (against Ottawa on Jan. 9) before Chicago general manager Stan Bowman traded him to the Coyotes for forward Anthony Duclair. He has hit another slump in Arizona.

In 12 games with the Coyotes, Panik has no goals and four assists. A promising start (four points in his first five games), has given way to some familiar struggles.

“I thought when he first came here, a couple games into the trade, he started to play kind of the way I liked, but he has really struggled lately,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “He came to me and said, ‘I’m not playing well. What can I do?’ For me, he’s not shooting the puck, he’s not playing north and he’s not winning enough battles in the corners. If he can do those three things he can be a darned good hockey player.

“He recognizes it and he wants to work at it. That’s half the battle. He’s got too good of a shot not to score. It’s one of the best shots on our team so he should want to have that shooting mentality.”

Panik’s 6.5 shooting percentage is well off the 12.5 percent he averaged over the first five seasons of his NHL career. A correction seems inevitable, but Panik is trying to be proactive. He has produced at least four shots on goal twice in the past seven games. He only managed that four times during the aforementioned slump in Chicago.

“I’m still trying to understand the system and get used to it and even build the chemistry with the guys, but I think I have more in me,” said Panik, who had 22 goals last season. “It would have been different if I had started in training camp and knew my linemates. In the middle of the season, everything is rushed but that’s a part of it that you just accept.”

Assistant coach John MacLean, who coaches the forwards, is sympathetic to Panik’s plight.

“Everybody thinks when you get traded you’re just going to another hockey club but sometimes you maybe get too fine with things instead of following the old saying: dance with the one that brought you,” MacLean said. “Sometimes you can get away from what you do well when you’re trying to impress your new teammates and your new coach.

“He has all the tools available to him. He’s got a great shot, he’s a big strong guy that skates extremely well so you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. You just want him to regain his confidence and to remember that sometimes it’s OK to be selfish if you have a shot. Use it as opposed to looking for the next play. That grows with getting to know his teammates and getting more comfortable.”

Panik is learning new linemates again after getting moved from the top line to a line with Christian Dvorak and Christian Fischer, but there is at least one aspect of Valley life to which he has adjusted quickly.

“I’m enjoying the weather,” he said, smiling. “It’s so nice when you go for lunch, just walking around the stores. I like the Scottsdale Quarter, Kierland. I’m not a golfer, but I think I’ve got to start.”

Blackhawks at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m., Monday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona Plus
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Blackhawks — 24-23-8. Coyotes — 13-32-10.
Injury report: Blackhawks — Corey Crawford (head) is day-to-day. D Michal Rozsival (upper body) is on long-term injured reserve. D Jan Rutta (undisclosed) is on IR. Coyotes — None.

Blackhawks scouting report: The Blackhawks have lost five straight and have fallen 10 points off the playoff pace, raising the strong possibility that they will miss the postseason for the first time since 2008. … Crawford was scheduled to meet the team in Arizona. He is close to returning. He hasn’t played since Dec. 23. … F Patrick Kane leads the team with 21 goals and 53 points. … Former Coyotes Anthony Duclair has two goals and five points in 12 games with Chicago.

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