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Exam finds no structural damage to Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s knee

Arizona Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) grabs his left knee as a Coyotes trainer arrives to help, during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 5-4 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — An exam by team doctors on Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s left knee on Sunday revealed no structural damage, general manager John Chayka said. Ekman-Larsson is considered day-to-day.

Ekman-Larsson was injured when he got tangled with San Jose winger, former Coyote and close friend Mikkel Boedker in a preseason game on Saturday at Gila River Arena. Ekman-Larsson fell awkwardly to the ice along the boards and struggled to get up. Head athletic trainer Dave Zenobi and defenseman Alex Goligoski helped him off the ice.

“It is good news,” Chayka said when asked about the exam on Sunday outside the Coyotes locker room. “It’s a big relief.”

The Coyotes are already without defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery during the offseason. Chayka said at a town hall meeting on Saturday that Chychrun is still a few weeks away from skating, at which point the Coyotes would have a better idea of his timeline for return.

Ekman-Larsson played through a broken thumb for about six weeks last season, and he privately endured the failing health of his mother, Annika, who died of cancer two weeks before Ekman-Larsson took a leave of absence to be with his family for the final three games of the regular season.

“Obviously, we dodged a bullet on this one. He’s a big part of our team so it’s nice to have him and know he’s not going to be out long,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “There’s no point in rushing him back, but if he can play he’s going to play. If he’s not 100 percent, we probably wouldn’t play him.”

The Coyotes acquired defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in an offseason trade to play with Ekman-Larsson on the team’s top defense pair. New coach Rick Tocchet is stressing an up-tempo style that should put the puck on Ekman-Larsson’s stick more often and allow him to make more plays. He is a critical part of the coach’s plans.

Ekman-Larsson is eligible to sign a contract extension next summer before he enters the final year of six-year contract with an average annual value of $5.5 million that will pay him $6.5 million and $7 million the last two years.

“He wants to be one of the best and that’s music to my ears,” Tocchet said. “I want him to be the best and we’re going to help him try to be one of the best defenseman in the league.”


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