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‘Locked in’ Arizona Coyotes flatten the Blues for third straight win

Arizona Coyotes right wing Richard Panik (14) celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nick Schmaltz only knows one version of the Arizona Coyotes.

Arizona’s newest forward, for whom the team traded following a 6-1 loss to the Calgary Flames last Sunday, has only seen the Coyotes win. He has seen them come back from a deficit at Minnesota, shutout the talented Nashville Predators on the road and flatten the St. Louis Blues 6-1 at home on Saturday at Gila River Arena.

The Coyotes we saw on Saturday looked like a different team than the one that got outscored 11-2 in its last two games at home before going on the recent road trip.

“We know we can’t play like that throughout the year,” forward Christian Fischer said regarding the team’s previous woes just a week ago. “We know that’s obviously dangerous for us and probably not too many times we’re going to be going on win streaks and stuff like that when you don’t have the consistency. I think now that we have that top line that’s obviously — they’ll probably stay together, I mean we’re assuming, for the most part. I think everything’s kind of falling into place now.”

“That top line” is Alex Galchenyuk, Schmaltz and Clayton Keller. One obvious difference in the Coyotes’ game on Saturday — the team’s third straight win — was that the power play looked sharp.

Yes, the same power play that before the trip head coach Rick Tocchet called “horrendous.”

Granted, the box score will tell you Arizona went just 1-for-7 (14.3 percent) on its power play on Saturday. What the box score will not tell you is that the puck movement, sustained pressure and quality of scoring chances on the power play were present in a way that they hadn’t been previously.

“What I liked about the power play — I know we got the goal — but we had a lot of shots and a lot of chances,” Tocchet said. “Like I said to you guys before, it builds momentum. You don’t always have to score, but it builds momentum and I liked that about the power plays tonight.”

All told, the Coyotes outshot the Blues 44-26 in the win and saw goals from six different skaters, including Jakob Chychrun for his first of the season.

Schmaltz showed strong ability to move the puck and play keep away, assets that could help the Coyotes maintain much-needed power play success moving forward. He also had two assists Saturday, meaning that the forward has a goal and three assists in three games since coming to Arizona.

“Nick Schmaltz’s really adding what John [Chayka] acquired him [for],” Tocchet said. “He’s a skilled guy, he’s poised with the puck, his lateral movement’s excellent. I think the sky’s the limit on him. There’s another level to him. He’s done a nice job for us. We’re excited to have him.”

One of Schmaltz’s assists was to Keller, his new linemate along with the aforementioned Galchenyuk.

“I think Kells was pretty happy when we made the trade,” Tocchet said. “Because Nick’s the type of player that can get him the puck and they’ve got the mojo together. So it’s nice. Kells had a good step tonight, too. And Alex was good, too. I liked Alex on the wing.”

Meanwhile, rookie goaltender Adin Hill stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced. He has stopped 69 of 70 shots faced in his three games played this season, all three of which were on this winning streak.

“I thought I had a good game, but once again our team did a great job boxing guys out, letting me see the puck,” Hill said. “I feel like I would’ve liked to control a couple more rebounds there but the guys did a good job of clearing them when I did let them out.

“It was an unreal game by the guys again.”

Chychrun, Keller, Fischer, Nick Cousins, Richard Panik and Alex Goligoski each had a goal in the win. Robert Thomas had the lone goal for St. Louis.

“I thought we jumped off — we wanted to get a good start here,” Tocchet said. “Something we were lacking the past few games here and I thought guys were locked in. That’s the way we’ve got a play and it was nice to see.”

LOOSE PUCKS

–Michael Grabner took an opponent’s stick to the face and went down immediately, clearly in pain. He was helped off the ice by trainers and didn’t return to the game due to what the team characterized as an upper-body injury.

After the game, Tocchet didn’t have an update on Grabner, saying he was with doctors. “It was scary. I hope he’s good,” he added.

–St. Louis forward Robby Fabbri sustained an upper-body injury, too, and didn’t return to the game. He was visibly frustrated exiting the ice, slamming his helmet down when he got to the bench.

The frustration on the part of Fabbri is understandable, since the 2014 first-round pick missed all of last season with an injury and appeared in only 51 games the year before. Those were because of two different knee injuries.

–Oliver Ekman-Larsson collected his 200th career NHL assist.


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