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Coyotes trim roster to 27; assign five players to Tucson

Arizona Coyotes' Mike Smith (41) and Shane Doan (19) celebrate the Coyotes' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in an NHL preseason hockey game Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Coyotes reduced their training camp roster by five more players on Saturday afternoon, assigning defensemen Anthony DeAngelo, Dakota Mermis, goalie Justin Peters and forwards Christian Fischer and Stefan Fournier to Tucson of the American Hockey League.

There are 27 players left on the roster, which must be reduced to 23 by Tuesday at 2 p.m. Arizona time. Defenseman Jarred Tinordi is still suspended four more games for violating the league and players’ association policy on substance abuse so he won’t be on the opening-night roster. If injured defensemen Michael Stone and Kevin Connauton begin the year on injured reserve, the Coyotes would only need to trim one more player from their roster.

“We’ll see where they both are next week,” coach Dave Tippett said. “There’s a lot of moving parts.”

Stone was just cleared for contact this week on the Coyotes’ Canadian road trip and has been practicing with the team.

“These are crucial practices for him,” Tippett explained. “He hasn’t played in a long time. I don’t think he’ll play in that (exhibition) game down there (in Tucson) Sunday. It’s a matter of how he practices and how he feels. It’s going to take him some time to get up and going again.”

For the time being, that means center prospects Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak and Laurent Dauphin have all survived cuts, as have forward Lawson Crouse and defenseman Jakob Chychrun. That could change when Stone and Connauton return. Crouse and Chychrun could both potentially play nine games before being returned to juniors.

It’s unclear how Dvorak, Strome and Dauphin would all fit on a roster that already has centers Martin Hanzal and Brad Richardson. When asked, however, if those three players were competing for two spots, Tippett said not necessarily.

“There’s potential for a lot of scenarios,” Tippett said, who did not rule out keeping all three. “They all haven’t hurt themselves. It’s just a matter of the mix we’re looking for.”

The Coyotes have an abundance of NHL defensemen which might mean they’ll keep eight on the roster, but Tippett has said in the past he’s not fond of that arrangement because two players won’t see much time. Depending on whether they keep seven or eight, Arizona could keep one or two extra forwards, which could open up a roster spot to keep all three centers.

There is also the possibility that General Manager John Chayka might swing another trade. The Coyotes have openly said they are using the Arizona Cardinals as a model for operation and Cardinals GM Steve Keim is never shy about making roster moves he feels will improve the team.

DeAngelo and Fischer were the biggest names to head to Tucson on Saturday. Associate coach Jim Playfair said recently that DeAngelo still needs to work on some details of his game.

“In order for him to be an NHL player, there are some things that are non-negotiable to adapt to this level and win at this level,” Playfair said. “You can play the way you want to play but is that conducive to the team winning consistently? That’s the message we’re going to have to work on with him and he’s going to have to want to buy into it.”

Fischer has impressed the staff with his physical, mental and emotional maturity. With one year of seasoning in the AHL, he is likely to push hard for a roster spot next season and could see opportunities this year. The Coyotes also had the choice of sending him back to Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League, where he lit it up in his first season, scoring 40 goals and posting 90 points in 66 games. The Spitfires are hosting the Memorial Cup this season, which would have provided a unique opportunity, but the staff felt a year in pro hockey would be better for his development.

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