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Coyotes get long break between games; Barrett Hayton’s debut approaches

Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet talks to his bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes on Monday were in the midst of a four-day period in which they don’t have a game. Not bad for a team that has some tough parts of the schedule coming up.

Arizona (0-2-0) scored just one goal in its season-opening game last Thursday in Anaheim and none two days later in its home opener. Their power play is without a goal this season and their next opponent is yet another playoff team from last year, the Vegas Golden Knights.

That said, the Coyotes had a good Monday.

“It was probably our best practice of the year,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “And the reason is I saw some individuals really step up their practice habits.”

Absent from the ice was Lawson Crouse, who was described as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

HAYTON’S DEBUT ON THE WAY

Barrett Hayton, the first-round pick from a year ago, will play “soon,” Tocchet said. It’s no surprise, as the 19-year-old made the team out of training camp but was scratched for both of the Coyotes’ first two games.

Per the NHL-CHL agreement (the CHL being an organization that includes the OHL, where Hayton has played junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), players under the age of 20 years old who are not on their team’s NHL roster must be returned to their junior team, as opposed to being placed in the AHL.

Additionally, teams get nine games to determine whether to retain that player on their roster, otherwise the first year of his contract is used up.

“He’s a smart guy,” Tocchet said. “He supports the puck and he’s got a hell of a shot. He comes up with loose pucks. Those are kind of the characteristics of a power play guy. Something that we really need.

“Retrievals are big on the power play, and making that play under pressure. Everybody wants to see plays, I know everybody talks about power play struggling, but power play struggles when you don’t come up with retrievals and guys aren’t moving their feet to get support. And I think that’s something that Barrett is good at.”

D JOINING THE RUSH

The Coyotes generated scoring chances a few different ways on Saturday in the 1-0 loss to Boston, a game in which the consensus was that the team played well and generated enough to win — a strong performance by Boston’s goalie notwithstanding.

Part of the formula was having defensemen join the rush, like scoring chances from Jakob Chychrun and Jordan Oesterle, who combined for six shots on goal.

“Obviously if you see teams, when their D-men are able to jump into the rush, it’s harder to defend against and you’re usually creating more opportunities,” Oesterle said, noting the addition this year of assistant coach Phil Housley.

Tocchet wouldn’t say that having defensemen more involved offensively has been of particular emphasis this year, but he did say he’d like to see defensemen taking harder shots from the point.

“We need people to really start hammering those pucks,” Tocchet said. “I’ve got to give the forwards credit of getting the puck to our D, but now we’ve got to deliver the puck to the net and people in front of the net. Those are the two things we have to get better at. I think that’s one of the weaknesses of our team sometimes is those two things.”

As of Monday morning, the Coyotes were fifth in the NHL in shots per game taken by defensemen with 11.5. A couple games is a small sample size, but it’s a trend to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

REMAIN CALM

Apart from a period of time on Saturday when Nick Schmaltz and Christian Fischer appeared to trade places on the wing in the middle six forward group, the lineups have been consistent through two games.

“If things aren’t working, you switch it up. But it’s the second game of the year. We had a lot of chances and I don’t want to start getting too nuts,” Tocchet said.

“Obviously the [Derek] Stepan line’s done a nice job of creating and putting themselves in good position. So the other guys, if you’re not getting your game to another level, it doesn’t matter if I switch lines or not. To me, you’ve got to get your game first and then find chemistry.”

It’s worth noting that while the Coyotes have had just one goal to show for their efforts, they rank eighth in the NHL in high danger scoring chances per 60 minutes.

SELLOUT STREAK

With games against the Wild and Jets last year and a home opener against Boston this year, the Coyotes have sold out three consecutive weekend home games. Their next such game is on Oct. 17 versus the Ottawa Senators, a rare 4 p.m. start time.

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