Michael Grabner, Christian Dvorak show no rust in Coyotes win

Mar 9, 2019, 10:34 PM
Michael Grabner #40 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates after scoring a short-handed goal against the...
Michael Grabner #40 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates after scoring a short-handed goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on March 09, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Michael Grabner missed 41 games. Christian Dvorak didn’t make his season debut until Feb. 26.

Grabner didn’t want to want to be a liability to his team as he rejoined the group late in a playoff push. Head coach Rick Tocchet, when talking about players returning from injury, said, “We have to find out who can play and play a playoff style the quickest.”

It looks like Grabner and Dvorak didn’t take long to shake off the rust.

Grabner and Dvorak each scored twice on Saturday in the Coyotes’ 4-2 win over the Kings, accounting for all of the team’s goals and showing that the adjustment to get back to NHL speed has been minimal, at most. Even Dvorak, who scored a not-too-shabby two goals, could’ve scored more as he was on the doorstep for multiple scoring chances through the game.

“[Grabner] just came out of a rocket on that breakaway. The stride and scoring that goal, that was big,” Tocchet said. “That was a big goal.

“‘Dvo,’ a couple of goals for us, hasn’t played in nine months, we’re asking a lot from the kid and he gets two goals for us tonight. Big moments from two of the guys. We need those moments from those guys — big moments — and they came through.”

One of Grabner’s goals was shorthanded, giving him five for the season, which is a Coyotes record. But he did so in just 27 games, making it all the more amazing that he leads the NHL in that category. His 82-game pace would be 15 shorthanded goals, which would best Mario Lemieux for the most in a season in NHL history (13).

“We’ll take those goals, but the biggest thing is to kill off the two minutes and get the momentum on our side,” Grabner said. “But we’ll definitely take the goals when they come.”

Grabner led all Coyotes forwards in time on ice on Thursday, his first game back, with 17:40 played. He played 14:29 on Saturday with 1:22 on the penalty kill and 1:00 on the power play.

“I got some power play time out there,” Grabner said. “That’s a first in like 10 years” (Grabner has two points on the power play going back 2013).

Grabner had missed 41 games because of a gruesome eye injury that he suffered on Dec. 1.

“We had kind of a day off yesterday, and 2:30 in the afternoon we were still here, we were ready to leave, the coaches, and ‘Grabs’ is in the weight room doing his stuff,” Tocchet said. “It just goes to show the type of guy he is.”

Dvorak, meanwhile, played 18:26 — the second-most of all Coyotes forwards behind Clayton Keller — and had 4:17 of time on the power play (the Coyotes went 1-for-4 on the PP, thanks to Dvorak). It was Dvorak’s sixth game back.

“It’s getting better,” Dvorak said of his game Saturday. “Obviously it’s a little bit of a work in progress, but I feel like I’m improving every game and it’s just nice to help the team win.”

Their return to the lineup — along with that of Jason Demers, who debuted on Tuesday against Anaheim — make for a deeper, healthier Coyotes roster that has been decimated by injuries all season. Starting goaltender Antti Raanta and top-six centers Nick Schmaltz and Derek Stepan remained sidelined.

“It’s just a credit to them, right? A lot of hours. The trainers did a great job with these guys,” Tocchet said. “They’re here at 7 a.m., they’re skating by themselves, they’ve been doing it for three, four, five, six months. This is why they did it, right? For the hope of being part of something and they’re a piece of what we’re doing right now. I give them a lot of credit.”

Dvorak now has two goals and an assist in six games on the season. Grabner has eight goals and five assists in 27 games.

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Michael Grabner, Christian Dvorak show no rust in Coyotes win