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‘Yotes Notes: Martinook has helped stabilize center position

Arizona Coyotes' Jordan Martinook, right, skates past Anaheim Ducks' Jacob Larsson during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

LISTEN: John Chayka, Arizona Coyotes GM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jordan Martinook is no stranger to the center position. He played it in the American Hockey League, and for the vast majority of his junior career. Despite that history, Martinook didn’t expect to man that position with the Coyotes this season, and certainly not on the team’s top line.

“A little more freedom,” he said when asked what he likes about the position. “I get to go pretty much wherever I want, which is nice, and use my speed. (On) the wing, I feel like I’m up and down the wall and getting pucks back. I love doing that, too, but center, you get to make a little more plays and just kind of scan the ice a little more.”

In a perfect world, Martinook would not be centering Jamie McGinn and Radim Vrbata. One of the Coyotes’ top rookies — Dylan Strome or Christian Dvorak — or Martin Hanzal would be doing that. With Hanzal injured and neither of the rookies giving coach Dave Tippett the kind of stability he’s looking for in all three zones from his top center, Martinook has added another bullet point to his argument as perhaps the team’s best forward this season.

“He’s given us versatility in all roles of the game,” Tippett said. “Last night (a 4-2 win at Colorado), he played the power play, he’s a penalty killer, he’s been pretty decent on faceoffs.

“We were looking for some stability there and he’s come in and given us stability there. He had a couple goals last night; probably had two or three other chances where he could have capitalized on something. He’s just a real good utility player for us. Anything we ask him to do, he’s more than happy to jump in and do whatever he can to help and that’s the sign of a good teammate and a good player.”

Fellow sophomore Max Domi leads the team with 10 points and is coming off a three-point game against the Avalanche, but Martinook is tied for the team lead (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) with five goals, including two against Colorado. Couple that with Brad Richardson’s four goals and eight points and the team is getting production from unexpected places.

“I’m not the fanciest guy or the guy that’s going to blow you away. I just go out and try and work hard every night,” Martinook said. “I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win. Last night, it was scoring; maybe (Thursday) night it’s going to be blocking shots and penalty killing. It changes from game to game but obviously I want to make an impact any way I can on the game.”

INJURY UPDATES

Goalie Mike Smith (left knee) took part in some drills for the first time on Wednesday, but he left the ice early and was seen in the locker room with ice on his left knee and right elbow.

“I don’t think he’s an option for this week but maybe next week,” Tippett said. “Everything is moving ahead as it should.”

Tippett said defenseman Michael Stone (upper body) is a possibility for Thursday’s game against the Jets. Center Martin Hanzal (lower body) will not play but could skate Friday.

LOOSE PUCKS

— To create roster room for Stone’s potential return, the Coyotes re-assigned center Tyler Gaudet to Tucson of the American Hockey League.

— Tippett confirmed that junior-eligible forward Lawson Crouse would stay beyond the nine-game trial period afforded the team in the CHL-NHL agreement. If Crouse plays on Thursday, he will officially engage the first year of his entry-level contract, just as defenseman Jakob Chychrun has already done. Once Crouse plays his 10th game, the second and conditional pick going to the Florida Panthers in this summer’s trade becomes a 2018 second-rounder.

— The Boston Globe reported that Coyotes’ first-round pick (seventh overall) and Boston University freshman Clayton Keller suffered a long-term, but not season-ending lower body injury.

“The good news is there’s no surgery required so it’s just going to be rehab,” Terriers’ coach David Quinn told WTBU Sports.

Keller has five goals and four assists through his first seven college games.

Jets at Coyotes

When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Coyotes 5-7. Jets 6-7.

Injury report: Coyotes — G Mike Smith (left knee) is on injured reserve and is week to week. D Michael Stone (upper body) and C Martin Hanzal (lower body) are on IR and are day-to-day. Jets — Fs Bryan Little (lower body), Shawn Matthias (lower body), Joel Armia (undisclosed) and Drew Stafford (upper body) are on IR.

Scouting the Jets: Recently signed restricted free agent D Jacob Trouba could make his season debut on Thursday. … C Mark Scheifele is on a five-game points streak (goal, four assists) against the Coyotes. Scheifele leads the Jets with 18 points (nine goals) in 14 games … Rookie Patrik Laine leads the team and the NHL with 11 goals.

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