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‘Yotes Notes: Freddie Hamilton waiting patiently for opportunity

Calgary Flames center Freddie Hamilton (25) skates with the puck against Dallas Stars center Mattias Janmark (13) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes claimed Freddie Hamilton off waivers from the Calgary Flames on Jan. 4. Since then, he has been a healthy scratch in 19 straight games.

If you were betting, you would have figured that streak would end Thursday against Calgary. The Coyotes had just traded Tobias Rieder to Los Angeles, leaving them with one extra forward, the Flames are Hamilton’s former team and his brother, Dougie, plays for Calgary.

Instead, Zac Rinaldo went back in the lineup and Hamilton’s waiting game continued.

“I just have to keep working and stay ready for an opportunity,” said Hamilton, who played eight games with the Flames, recording one assist. “When I get the opportunity I have to make the most of it. That’s about it.”

The idea behind claiming Hamilton was twofold. General manager John Chayka wanted to add depth to protect against injuries, but the Coyotes got fully healthy shortly after he arrived.

Chayka and Roadrunners general manager Steve Sullivan also wanted to allow their young prospects in Tucson to play as much as possible, rather than shuttling back and forth between Phoenix and Tucson to sit on the Coyotes bench.

“We want those guys to create some momentum with their play,” said Sullivan, who talked with Hamilton on Thursday to fully explain the situation. “They’ve got a good culture down there and they’re winning some hockey games. I’m sure they’d like to get called up but for us it’s about the long-term game. Having a player come up and just sit the bench doesn’t help his development.

“Down there, they are winning. [Roadrunners coach] Mike Van Ryn and his staff are doing a phenomenal job. Luckily for them, they are getting results so it makes the culture change and the habits a lot easier to manage.”

Hamilton may get his opportunity over the final six weeks of the season. With the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26, the Coyotes may need him to fill in if they trade another forward. Injuries are another potential path to playing time.

Hamilton admitted it is hard staying prepared to play when his last game action came on Dec. 22 against Montreal.

“It is, but it depends on how you handle it,” he said. “The coaches do a good job after practice and we do a lot of good drills. You stay really fit and you’re able to work out more. If you focus during the games and watch the games, it’s not as hard coming back in as if you had the mindset of not paying attention or zoning out.

“I was used to that a little bit last year. You never know with injuries. We’ll see what happens the rest of the year.”

DEFENSIVE LAPSES

The Flames’ first three goals, and final goal, in a 5-2 win on Thursday came because of defensive-zone breakdowns. Poor communication, poor positional discipline and poor technique all played roles.

On Sam Bennett’s game-tying goal, Christian Dvorak was skating with Bennett to apply back pressure but he let him go and Oliver Ekman-Larsson didn’t pick him up quickly enough to raise his stick and prevent him from redirecting Johnny Gaudreau’s centering pass. Better communication might have prevented that goal, but Dvorak also could have stayed with Bennett.

On Gaudreau’s go-ahead goal, Jason Demers opted to shadow Sean Monahan as he drove the net. In that instance, Ekman-Larsson needed to hold that lane rather than also following Monahan, the player that would have been his defensive assignment in normal circumstances since Ekman-Larsson played the left side.

The Coyotes call that duplication when two players cover one. It leaves a player unguarded. In this case, it was Gaudreau and forward Christian Fischer compounded the problem by getting caught in the middle of the ice and not defending the lane Gaudreau used to score.

On Monahan’s power-play goal that gave Calgary a 3-1 lead, both Zac Rinaldo and Kevin Connauton went to Monahan (another example of duplication) but Connauton let Dougie Hamilton’s pass get to Monahan in the slot and Rinaldo failed to lift Monahan’s stick.

That exact play — a Hamilton centering pass to Monahan — was something the Coyotes coaching staff warned its penalty killers about before the game.

On Matthew Tkachuk’s goal that made it 5-1, Niklas Hjalmarsson simply allowed too great a gap between himself and the shooter after an assignment switch with Jakob Chychrun.

“You can’t always play great but some of those sluggish games you can still win,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “I felt the goals we gave them were mentally sluggish, guys going to the wrong areas, the stick position, just a lazy mentality, not being sharp.”

LOOSE PUCKS

— Tocchet said Antti Raanta will start against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday and Darcy Kuemper will start against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.

— Two days after the Los Angeles Kings acquired goalie Scott Wedgewood along with forward Tobias Rieder in a trade with the Coyotes for goalie Darcy Kuemper, the Kings waived Wedgewood.

— The forward lines and defense pairs were the same at Friday’s practice as they were against the Flames.

Ducks at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona Plus
Radio: KTAR News 92.3 FM
Records: Ducks — 31-20-11. Coyotes — 17-33-10.
Injury report: Ducks — F Patrick Eaves (Gullain-Barre Syndrome). G John Gibson (lower body) did not practice Friday and could land on injured reserve. Coyotes — None.

Ducks scouting report: The Ducks were in third place in the Pacific Division entering Friday’s games. They were one point behind San Jose for second place and two points ahead of Los Angeles and Calgary. … F Rickard Rakell leads the team with 22 goals and 48 points. … C Ryan Getzlaf has 38 points in 38 games played.

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