PHILADELPHIA — The Coyotes created a mild stir when likely-to-be-traded right wing Mikkel Boedker took the ice for Saturday’s matinee at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Some wondered why the team would risk an injury to an asset on the move, but Arizona still believes it has a shot at making the Western Conference playoff field. It wasn’t about to lessen its chance by removing Boedker from the lineup.
As it turned out, the Philadelphia Flyers lessened those postseason chances with a 4-2 win, handing Arizona its fifth straight defeat to match a season-high set from Dec. 1-8 on an 0-5 road trip.
Flyers left wing Scott Laughton scored on a breakaway due to some poor defensive coverage. Claude Giroux beat Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue to the short side through a screen and off a deflection for his 500th career point, and former Coyote Sam Gagner poured salt in the wound when he beat Domingue to the short side on a play that only materialized after the puck caromed off a linesman, but still gave Philadelphia a 3-1 cushion after one period.
“I thought we were in the offensive zone so much we were tired coming back,” coach Dave Tippett quipped. “Unfortunately, we had some turnovers that led to some odd-man breaks the other way. We can’t get many breaks right now and we can’t capitalize on our chances.”
Tippett tried tweaking his lines and defensive pairings to find an offensive spark, putting Max Domi on the left wing with Brad Richardson and Shane Doan, while Jordan Martinook played with Antoine Vermette and Boedker. Michael Stone was paired with Oliver Ekman-Larsson on defense while Connor Murphy played with former Flyer Nicklas Grossmann.
It didn’t matter. The Coyotes still managed two goals or fewer for the fourth time on this four-game-old trip, and with 2:45 left to play, the Flyers’ Pierre-Edouard Bellemare put the game out of reach by stuffing home a loose puck for a 4-2 lead.
“Close isn’t good enough,” Richardson said. “I think we had enough chances to win the game. It’s really tough to answer some questions when we’re all pissed off.”
Arizona is 5-13-2 in its last 20 games; hardly the stuff upon which playoff dreams are built. As the Coyotes head to Pittsburgh to conclude this five-game road trip on Monday, four hours after the NHL’s trade deadline has passed, they know there will be more subtraction than addition to their lineup.
With Boedker’s representation turning down what two sources said was a five-year offer for an average annual value of $5.5 million, the Coyotes are likely to trade a player who has been here eight seasons and forged many friendships.
“Obviously, I don’t want to see him go to another team. I want him to stay here but it’s not up to me,” defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “He’s handled it really good. He has been working really hard even though he hasn’t been scoring a lot. We appreciate that.”
If this was Boedker’s last game as a Coyote, he gave his good friend a nice parting gift when he cut to the middle of the ice and backhanded a pass to Ekman-Larsson, who roofed the offering to cut the Flyers lead to 3-2 at 6:33 of the third period and raise his goal total to 19, one behind San Jose’s Brent Burns for the NHL lead for goals by a defenseman.
“We were friends before we came in the NHL,” Boedker said of Ekman-Larsson. “I’m sure we’ll stay friends long after it’s over. We’ll see what’s going to happen. It’s a tough situation with a lot of things going through my mind right now.”
Boedker admitted that the past few weeks have been difficult.
“It’s business. You try as hard as you can not to think about it,” he said. “At the same time, it’s your livelihood and it’s about me. It’s been some hard time but hopefully it still works out.”