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Coyotes’ Raanta says he reported to training camp in shape, healthy

Buffalo Sabres left wing Benoit Pouliot (67) scores a goal against Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (32) as Coyotes' Dakota Mermis (43) watches during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Sabres won 5-4. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Antti Raanta’s lower-body injuries have been a source of frustration for the Coyotes organization and coach Rick Tocchet over the first month of the season. Tocchet hinted on a pair of occasions that Raanta may have reported to camp out of shape, but Raanta insisted Thursday that was not the case.

“I felt good when I came here,” he said. “I felt healthy and everything was good. I had no problems with conditioning or shape and all that. It’s been just frustration when you come to a new team and you want to show from the first day on what you can do and then you have setbacks.”

The Coyotes could have used their starting goaltender in a 1-11-1 start, but Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Gila River Arena made it clear that goaltending is not the only issue plaguing the team.

After Buffalo tied the game at 1-1 with nine-tenths of a second left in the first period, the Coyotes produced a litany of defensive breakdowns and mental errors that led to odd-man rushes. The Sabres built a 5-1 lead on a pair of backdoor tap-ins by Benoit Pouliot and Evander Kane, a breakaway by Seth Griffith and a partial breakaway by Pouliot.

“It’s tough when you get four 2-on-1s and a breakaway,” Tocchet said, when asked about Raanta’s performance. “It’s hard to evaluate anything but he was fine.”

Teammate Max Domi underscored the belief that goaltending was not the issue in the loss.

“It’s great to have Raants back, not only on the ice but in the room he’s a huge presence,” Domi said. “It doesn’t matter what goalie you have back there — if you have a brick wall back there — if you give them that many 2-on-1s, the puck is going to end up in the back of your net.”

While he reiterated that he was healthy to start the camp, Raanta admitted that he would change his summer workout plan if he had to do it over again.

“The biggest thing I did different this summer was I started to skate a little bit earlier and maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do,” he said. “I drove an hour away from my hometown and I was skating with all the NHL guys from there like Mikko Koivu and Patrik Laine and those guys.

“We really didn’t have time to start with movement stuff. It was almost like straightaway rapid-fire shots. I think that was probably the wrong thing to do when I was talking with the trainers; that might be the reason why there was some issues, but other than that I felt good.”

Raanta practiced with the team on its recent, five-game, East Coast road trip, leading to the belief internally that he might play on the trip, perhaps as soon as last Saturday in New Jersey, but he never got to the point where he felt ready.

“We only really stayed to movement stuff,” he said. “We didn’t do any reaction type of stuff. Everything was pretty much moving and stopping and pretty much making the save. We just wanted to make sure when we started making the more reaction stuff and everything like that, that everything feels good and everything is under control so there’s no setbacks anymore. We just wanted to make sure we don’t hurt anything anymore.”

Raanta finally reached that point on Monday in Philadelphia.

“That was the first actual real practice with the team and it felt pretty good there,” he said. “We just wanted to get a couple more practice days for it. It felt good in Detroit (Tuesday). We did 50 minutes worth there and did lots of different moving stuff and everything felt good.

“Then we got the flight [Wednesday] and the day off so I think the rest was good for it.”

Raanta called Thursday’s morning skate the “last step on the road” to his return, but he expressed frustration that he could not do more to alter his team’s fortunes Thursday against the Sabres.

“It doesn’t matter how many odd-man rushes or whatever happens,” he said. “You’re the last guy there.

“I just need to make saves. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t been playing in three weeks or haven’t been playing in two days. I just have to come prepared and ready to play.”

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