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Nick Cousins, like his teammates, seems to have turned a page

Arizona Coyotes center Nick Cousins celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders during overtime of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 3-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The impetus for the Coyotes’ recent success seems to have been the start of the new calendar year. The turning point for Nick Cousins might have been something slightly different.

Cousins and his teammates have earned points in seven of the eight games they’ve played since the start of 2018, which also happens to be their second half of the schedule. But according to head coach Rick Tocchet, Cousins’ emergence with Arizona was pushed along by a meeting.

“Defensively, I didn’t like his game. He was a little sloppy,” Tocchet said. “To his credit, he came into my office one time and wanted to say, ‘What do I got to do,’ and he spent some time with video and working on practice and he’s starting to become a complete player. This month, he’s played really well.”

Tocchet shared that story just moments after the 24-year-old netted an overtime goal to lift Arizona to a 3-2 overtime win over the New York Islanders. He also scored the game’s first goal back in the first period. It was the Coyotes’ fifth straight game in which they earned at least a point.

Cousins playing the role of hero is quite the pleasant change for a player who has appeared in only 37 of his team’s 49 games on the year.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “When you’re winning games and the team’s playing well, it’s fun to come to the rink.”

It might add to the fun that Cousins not only helped his team to a win on Monday, but that he’s getting more opportunities overall. Even during a shootout against the Predators on Jan. 18, Cousins took Arizona’s third shot attempt — and scored.

“He’s playing really well,” Tocchet said. “I’ve sat him out this year, he’s worked on his game. He’s always: smile on his face, coming to work to practice. He’s worked on his game and he’s starting to reap the benefits. Good for him.”

UP NEXT

The Coyotes have just one more game before this weekend’s NHL All-Star break, during which the Coyotes get six consecutive days without a game.

Arizona will host the Columbus Blue Jackets (26-18-3) on Thursday.

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