GLENDALE, Ariz. — All of the Arizona Coyotes had a week off during the All-Star break. Despite that rest they turned in a stinker of a performance in their first game back on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Now they are facing back-to-back games against the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks in a critical stretch of the schedule that has them playing five of six games against Pacific Division foes.
So what did coach Dave Tippett do on Wednesday? He canceled practice. It was an unusual move for a young and well-rested team that needs practice time, but Tippett had a good reason.
“We had a couple guys come in sick and I didn’t want it to spread throughout the lineup so we just sent everybody home,” Tippett said. “Cancelling practice was the last thing I wanted to do. It’s not an ideal situation, but you manage it the best you can.”
Tippett said he is leaning on splitting his goalies in the team’s back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday against the Blackhawks and Ducks, respectively. He hasn’t decided which goalie will start which game.
On Tuesday, Louis Domingue allowed five goals on 25 shots for the second straight game. Tippett pulled him after the fifth Kings goal, a weak shot off the stick of Dustin Brown that beat Domingue to the glove side from a bad angle.
PK SAVE PERCENTAGE
After Tuesday’s 6-2 loss, Tippett said he thought Domingue should have stopped the Kings’ first two goals (as well as two others), which both came on the power play.
“Our save percentage on the PK is way below what it should be,” Tippett said. “Can we do a better job killing penalties, getting pucks down the ice and winning faceoffs? Sure we can. But with your penalty killing, you need saves. That’s just the bottom line and all three of our goaltenders, if you look at the stats that I look at, are way below.”
According to the website war-on-ice.com, the Coyotes own the league’s second worst save percentage on the penalty kill at 83.5 percent. Only Calgary is worse at 83.2. For comparison, Anaheim has the league’s best mark at 92.7 while the league mean is 87.15.
“You can look at those numbers but I look at where the shots come from and whether they’re high percentage so I get a little deeper,” Tippett said. “There were screens on those first two goals but you have to work to see around that. There are certain things we do with our formations to try to give the goalie the best chance to be successful but we are going to give up shots. We have to get more saves.”
The Coyotes recalled forward Steve Downie form Springfield of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Downie was assigned to Springfield on Jan. 18 with Tippett saying he needed to get some ice time to get his game back in shape.
With two players sick, the move was made partially for insurance, but Tippett would like to see certain elements in Downie’s game when and if he plays.
“He’s just got to be a guy who is hard to play against,” Tippett said.
Downie has three goals and six points in 25 games with the Coyotes this season.
Blackhawks at Coyotes
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Season series: Chicago leads, 1-0
Probable goalies: Coyotes — TBD. Blackhawks — Corey Crawford
Injury report: G Mike Smith (abdominal surgery) and F Joe Vitale (concussion symptoms) are out. Blackhawks — None.
Scouting the Hawks: Chicago owns the Western Conference’s top point total at 72, and opened the post All-Star break schedule with a 2-1 win in Colorado despite the absence of center Jonathan Toews, who was suspended one game for missing the All-Star Game due to a reported illness. … Goalie Corey Crawford may never earn the respect he deserves, but he belongs in the thick of the Vezina Trophy discussion this season. He is first in the NHL in shutouts (7), second in wins (29), fourth in save percentage (.931) and seventh in goals against average (2.11).… Patrick Kane continues to lead the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy races. He leads the NHL in goals (30), assists (44) and points (74) and is fourth in plus-minus at plus-22.