Arizona Coyotes return home for important moment in season
GLENDALE, Ariz. — After the Coyotes (3-5-0) left town for their first multi-game road trip of the season, they return home for their first multi-game homestand of the season.
This first one is an important one.
“It’s a nice homestand, but this is a big homestand for this hockey club,” head coach Rick Tocchet said Thursday before the team’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. “We’re going to know a lot about this team in the sense that their urgency to play well at home, to put some wins together, to get back into the thick of things. It’s not like as a coach you put pressure on your players, but we do have to have pressure on our players to play well at home.
“This is a five-game homestand, we haven’t had a lot of games in a row, so this is something where we should have energy tonight.”
Arizona split its recent four-game trip, beating Chicago and Columbus but falling to Minnesota and Winnipeg. Importantly, though, the Coyotes scored 12 goals in those four games, compared to their two goals in the first four games of the season.
They also outshot their opponents in the two losses — a continuing theme this year.
“We went into Winnipeg, for instance, and we felt like we probably deserved to win that game, even though we came up on the wrong side,” general manager John Chayka told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Thursday. “We felt like, you know what, we played a pretty good style of play and our process was pretty strong. We keep doing that consistently over 82 games, and we feel pretty good about our group.”
The Coyotes return home Thursday ranked second in the league in penalty kill percentage, seventh in save percentage, second in fewest goals allowed and, according to Natural Stat Trick, sixth in shots-for percentage.
Arizona will host Vancouver, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Carolina and Philadelphia in this stay at home that stretches to Nov. 5. First up: A Canucks team that’s nursing some injuries to several players, including those to last year’s Calder Trophy runner-up Brock Boeser, and this year’s rookie sensation, Elias Pettersson. It wasn’t immediately clear whether those two players would play Thursday, but they skated at Gila River Arena in the morning skate.
GALCHENYUK IS BACK
Forward Alex Galchenyuk made his Coyotes debut on Tuesday night in Columbus, though he didn’t factor on any of the goals in the team’s 4-1 win. His presence, however, does give flexibility to Tocchet in his lineup, since he doesn’t have to use players who typically play wing to fill in at center.
“Any time a coach has their centermen set, it makes a big difference,” Tocchet said. “It’s easy to slot guys, easier to put certain people on the ice. Him going at center, obviously just kind of slots every little bit better. Nick Cousin’s actually done a nice job at center for us. Allows us to put [Dylan Strome] on the left and those guys can switch on and off. And that line was actually pretty good last game.”
The latest iteration of the Coyotes lineup with Galchenyuk in it had Brendan Perlini, Derek Stepan and Christian Fischer on the second line. Fischer netted his first career hat trick.
–Goaltender Antti Raanta will not start against the Canucks on Thursday after he missed Tuesday’s game in Columbus due to illness. Tocchet said Raanta is feeling “a little bit better,” but the backup, Darcy Kuemper, will play again.
“He could’ve probably played but I think he’s just a little bit under the weather,” Tocchet said.”
–Defenseman Jakob Chychrun (lower-body) has been cleared for contact in practice and can now begin full practices and drills to take steps toward his eventual return.
“He’s really strong. If it was him, he’d want to play tomorrow,” Tocchet siad. “We’re staying with the schedule. He’s not going to play for a bit here.”