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Alex Goligoski knows he has more to give Coyotes

Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard, middle, gets some help from Avalanche's Nikita Zadorov (16) in making a save on a shot by Arizona Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Avalanche defeated the Coyotes 3-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Neither of Alex Goligoski’s primary coaches has seen enough problems in his game to warrant criticism, so Goligoski decided to level it for them.

“To be honest, I don’t really like much,” the Coyotes veteran defenseman said when asked to assess the state of his game on Monday. “I may be thinking a little too much out there. You play your best when you’re comfortable and there’s a lot of new things going on.”

Much was expected of Goligoski after he signed a five-year, $23.375 million deal this summer. The Coyotes knew they needed improved puck play from their blue line to complement Oliver Ekman-Larsson and balance their pairings.

“We’re asking him to play big minutes against top players, we’re asking him to be a big part of the power play, we’re asking him to be a big part of the penalty kill and I think right now he’s trying to go through ‘where can I just try to grab onto something and be really solid?'” said Coyotes assistant coach Jim Playfair, who coaches the defensemen.

All of that was expected, but the Coyotes have thrown some added wrinkles at Goligoski. With Michael Stone missing eight of the team’s first 12 games due to injury, including Tuesday’s game in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, Goligoski has been changing partners and changing sides. The Coyotes have had him on the left side, they’ve had him on the right with Ekman-Larsson and the young, mistake-prone team around him has forced Goligoski into a role he did not fill as much with the possession-happy Dallas Stars.

“He’s probably had to defend a lot more here in the last 11 games than he had to overall in Dallas,” Playfair said.

Coach Dave Tippett said recently that Ekman-Larsson is the only defenseman who has consistently made good plays from the back end and Goligoski acknowledges this has been a problem with his game.

“We haven’t broken the puck out very well at all; we’ve played too much in our own end,” he said. “If you’re playing a lot in your end it’s going to be tough to come out clean. When you can start getting (offensive)-zone time and then they’re dumping it in and you’re coming back at them is where all of that comes into play. It’s a matter of playing in the offensive zone more and less in our defensive zone.”

A lot of attention has been focused on Goligoski’s team-high minus-eight rating, but Tippett noted he was on the ice for two empty-net goals and a handful of others that have come as a result of breakdowns elsewhere.

“I have my own plus-minus that I worry about,” Tippett said. “The league plus-minus, I don’t even look at it.”

Before a team-wide disaster of a 5-1 loss at Anaheim on Friday, Tippett thought Goligoski had played two or three of his best games in a row. He has six assists that, while early, put him on pace for a career-high 44 points.

“Our responsibility is help to him get stabilized and to help him get confident and (feeling) strong about his game,” Playfair said. “That’s a really an important part of your group back there when you can get them into a rhythm and a sync.”

Stone’s return to the lineup will be a critical component in establishing that rhythm.

“We’d like to get him back over on the left side if we could,” Tippett said. “It makes us better. It gives us more balance if we get him back over to the left.”

Goligsoki understands that more is expected of him, but he insists that the big offseason contract isn’t adding pressure to perform, and he professed an even-keel approach to the task at hand.

“Coming to a new team you want to come in and have an impact, be a good teammate and player and help the team get wins so it’s a little frustrating in the sense that we haven’t started out the way we wanted or the way I wanted, but it’s a long season,” he said.

Notes: The Coyotes recalled right-handed defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and center Tyler Gaudet on Monday while placing defenseman Michael Stone and center Martin Hanzal on injured reserve, retroactive to the last game in which they played: Oct. 27 for Stone; Nov. 1 for Hanzal. Stone took part in some contact drills on Monday. To create cap space for the two recalled players, the Coyotes placed Chris Pronger on long term injured reserve. … DeAngelo will be paired with Goligoski. … Goalie Mike Smith faced shots on Monday but is likely at least a week away.

Coyotes at Avalanche

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV: FOX Sports Arizona Plus
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Coyotes 4-7. Avalanche 5-6.

Injury report: Coyotes — G Mike Smith (left leg) is on injured reserve and is week to week. D Michael Stone (upper body) and C Martin Hanzal (lower body) are on IR but Stone made the trip to Denver to skate (he won’t play). LW Tobias Rieder (left leg) is day to day and made the trip. Avalanche — F Blake Comeau (groin) is day to day.

Scouting the Avalanche: Since beating the Coyotes, Colorado has lost three of its last four games and has scored just two goals combined in those games. … Calvin Pickard (1.5 GAA, .946 SP) will start in goal as coach Jared Bednar decides to ride the hot goalie rather than rely on Semyon Varlamov. … F Matt Duchene leads the team with six goals and 10 points.

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