Arizona Coyotes search for PK prowess in absence of Grabner
Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet couldn’t say for sure on Monday just how long forward Michael Grabner would be out with a gruesome eye injury.
All that is known publicly is what was announced by Coyotes communications: Grabner is out indefinitely.
“Indefinitely” could mean a lot of things, but in the meantime — whether it’s days or weeks or months — Arizona has big skates to fill.
“Yeah, you’re going to add some guys,” Tocchet said. “[Mario Kempe], if he’s in there. He can kill. We’ve got some guys on the wings. We’ve always looked at some other guys, maybe had to kill. So Crouser [Lawson Crouse] is going to have to take a bigger chunk, Archie [Josh Archibald], Pans [Richard Panik], Step [Derek Stepan].”
Grabner played on a line pairing with Brad Richardson in 5-on-4 penalty kill situations. His ability to use his stick defensively and take off to the other end with speed is a big part of the team’s penalty kill success this year, which stands at 89.7 percent, No. 1 in the NHL by a good margin.
“Richie, you know Richie’s obviously our number one guy. Maybe rotate some guys with him, try to find him a good partner. Grabs is a big part of our PK and we’re going to have to do it by committee.”
Grabner also happens to have four shorthanded goals this season, the most in the NHL.
“I think he’s got one of the better sticks you’ll see in the league,” Richardson said of Grabner in late October. “He’s good at kind of baiting guys in and putting a puck where he wants them to and he can intercept it and knock pucks down.
“He’s got exceptional speed so you want to try to use that if you can.”
ADIN HILL & THE GOALIE SITUATION
Coyotes rookie goaltender Adin Hill was named one of the NHL’s “Three Stars of the Week” on Monday after going 3-0-0 with a shutout and stopping 59 of 60 shots faced in the last week. He appeared in all three of the Coyotes’ games on their current three-game win streak as Antti Raanta and Darcy Keumper are both day-to-day.
Hill commended his teammates for their role in his success this week, but also commented on the difference between the NHL level and AHL level:
“The players are skilled, it’s a fast game out there, a lot of crisp passes,” he said. “It’s clean, it’s very systematic. Players stick to the system and guys keep the team’s game plan. It’s a good game, I like it.
“Definitely when you’re on the ice it’s a little faster pace than watching on TV or in the stands. But it’s fun, it’s exciting.”
As for Raanta, he participated in a full team practice on Monday for the first time. Tocchet said the team would see how he feels tomorrow before they make any decisions. But 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station‘s John Gambadoro reported Monday that he expects Hill to be in net again on Tuesday night in the Coyotes’ game at the LA Kings.
Tocchet added that Darcy Kuemper — who is injured — “felt really good” on Monday and he believes he’ll participate in full practice on Wednesday.
At that point, they’ll have some sorting out to do: Arizona currently has Hill, Calvin Pickard and Raanta on its roster with Kuemper on IR, per the NHL’s media website.
GARLAND COMES UP
The Coyotes recalled forward Conor Garland on Monday, a former fifth-round pick who is scoring at more than a point-per-game pace in Tucson this season. This came after the news that Grabner was out indefinitely.
“To be honest with you, he had a great camp,” Tocchet said of Garland, who will join the team in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “I’m not saying he wasn’t on the radar, but he kind of surprised me. I thought he was really good in his exhibition game. So, unfortunately I think he broke his hand or something, I can’t remember, and kind of hurt him a little bit and the rehab, he had to go back down.
“But he’s done a nice job down there. He’s scoring goals, playing hard. He deserves a chance to come up.”