Arizona Coyotes’ win streak ends, but urgency must keep up
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rick Tocchet isn’t a fan of highs and lows. Even after recent wins, the Coyotes’ head coach was mindful that his team must get back to work and stay focused on each day.
Wednesday morning seems like a good time to turn a page.
Arizona’s six-game winning streak is over. The Coyotes lost 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, a team that is now only 7-21-4 since a week before Christmas and ended a five-game losing streak on Sunday. It was the Coyotes’ worst game in a while, having gone on a tear that included a 4-1 win over playoff-bound Winnipeg.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but tomorrow the game’s over in my head,” Tocchet said. “I’ve got to figure out a way to get some guys going, that’s number one on my list. And then obviously keep the energy level. We’ve got to have a good practice tomorrow.”
The Ducks out-shot the Coyotes 31-23. Darcy Kuemper made 28 saves.
“I liked our first, we had some chances,” Tocchet said, adding, “then after that it was garbage, to be honest with you.”
The Coyotes (32-29-5) have 16 games left. The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche each earned two points on Tuesday night, and the Minnesota Wild earned one. The ‘Yotes sit three points back now.
Their next game is against the first-place Calgary Flames. It’s not getting easier.
“We’re a couple points out now, I mean every game’s important,” forward Lawson Crouse said. “We can’t take shifts off, we can’t take games off. We need everyone in this locker room. Obviously it’s a big bounce-back, big learning experience and get ready for the next game against Calgary, because it’s going to be a tough one.”
In some ways, it may feel as though the Coyotes are playing with house money. Projected by only some to be a playoff team when the season started, injuries have thrown a wrench in the plans. It would be a feat for the Coyotes to make the playoffs at all, given the circumstances.
But on the other hand, the Coyotes are knocking on the door of their first playoff berth since 2011-12. The opportunity shouldn’t be wasted.
“We’re not built to have four or five guys just not play well,” Tocchet said. “We’re just not built that way. We don’t have that where we can just score three goals like that. We need everybody, and like I said, we need some guys in crucial times to — not so much score, [but] to keep the momentum.”
Defenseman Jason Demers said there are three parts to an NHL season: the start of the year, the playoff push and the playoffs themselves. With the exception of Tuesday, the Coyotes had been playing like they’re gunning for the third act.
All they have to do is keep it up and pretend Tuesday never happened.
Demers played his first game since suffering a lower-body injury on Nov. 15 on Tuesday. He played 14:08, the lowest ice time among Coyotes defensemen.
His return to the lineup on Tuesday comes about a month before the end of the season, and the Coyotes could use him: he’s been a top-pairing defenseman with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, though he was eased into action with a third-pairing role with Kevin Connauton.
“I felt great,” he said.
“Just the offensive rust, it takes a little bit of time moving the puck out. It’s always the last thing. I think defensively I felt good, some good gap stuff. But it’s just the way it goes. It’s just shaking off the rust every game and making sure that I’m sharp when I get the puck and don’t cause any big turnovers or anything like that.”