Another Antti Raanta injury clouds Coyotes’ immediate future

Nov 22, 2017, 11:37 PM | Updated: Nov 23, 2017, 10:37 am
San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) collides with Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, left, ...
San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) collides with Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, left, as referee Kendrick Nicholson, left, looks on before calling a penalty on Sharks' Couture during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes’ season-high three-game winning streak was a product of many things, including improved special teams play, secondary scoring, better defensive structure, greater confidence and greater resolve.

The backbone of it all, however, was starting goalie Antti Raanta, who stopped 90 of 97 shots (.928 save percentage) during the streak, and was beginning to look like the No. 1 goaltender that general manager John Chayka envisioned when he plucked him from the New York Rangers this summer in a draft-day trade.

The Coyotes are holding their breath, hoping that Raanta will be able to continue his recent run of success. Raanta left Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.

About four minutes before that, Sharks forward Logan Couture collided with Raanta and drew a goaltender interference penalty. Raanta’s head took the brunt of the hit. The Coyotes would not comment on whether that play was the cause of the injury. Nor would they comment on the nature of the injury, but it didn’t take a lot of analysis to surmise that Raanta might be suffering from concussion-like symptoms whose duration is impossible to predict.

Before he left the ice, the cameras caught Raanta talking to head athletic trainer Dave Zenobi before the decision was made to pull him.

“It’s tough but it’s a game of injuries,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said of losing his starting goalie. “The next man up has got to step up.”

Backup Scott Wedgewood tried to do that, but five seconds into his first game in Glendale, the Sharks took a 1-0 lead when Brent Burns’ shot from the point pin-balled around the slot to Joe Thornton, who beat Wedgewood from the right face-off circle inside the near post at 14:42.

San Jose took a 2-0 lead at 4:56 of the second period after Justin Braun won a puck battle along the right-wing boards and got the puck to Joonas Donskoi in the near face-off circle. Donskoi drew several Coyotes to him, leaving Logan Couture all alone on the left side. Couture deked Wedgewood and scored his team-leading 11th goal.

“Obviously, getting in there and shot, tip, goal was tough,” Wedgewood (13 saves) said. “I felt ready to go overall. It was just a little bit of a mentality, a little tougher to switch it on there but halfway through the second period I’d say I was good.”

Raanta, who missed 10 games because of separate lower-body injuries earlier this season, was making his eighth straight start. The Coyotes are practicing on Thanksgiving and then they face the Los Angeles Kings on Friday and the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

At the moment, the team is terming its starting goalie as day-to-day, with the hope it is a short-term concern.

“No disrespect to Raants, but next man up,” center Derek Stepan said. “In this league, you need two goaltenders. You need your starter and your backup and we need Wedgy to be real solid for us.”

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