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Coyotes’ Rick Tocchet to coach Pacific Division All-Star team

Rick Tocchet of the Arizona Coyotes handles bench duties during the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 25, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet will be the head coach of the Pacific Division All-Star team at this year’s NHL All-Star weekend, the NHL announced on Thursday.

He replaces Gerard Gallant, who was originally slated to coach the squad. He was fired as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, despite the Knights being only three points out of first place at the time of his dismissal.

“It’s a weird situation. [Gallant] going, he deserves to be behind the bunch,” Tocchet told reporters in Vancouver on Thursday. “It’s a tough one, but it’s good to represent the Coyotes. … I wish somebody had some skates with them, I could play in it. But this is the next best thing.”

The All-Star weekend will take place Jan. 24 to 25. Unlike other sports, the weekend doesn’t feature one individual All-Star game but instead a tournament series of shortened, 3 vs. 3 format hockey games. There are four teams; one for each division.

Tocchet’s Coyotes are in first place in the Pacific Division, two points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. In 2018-19, Tocchet was in his second season with the Coyotes and led them to a 39-35-8 record, ultimately finishing four points out of a Wild Card playoff berth. The year before that, Tocchet’s first year, the Coyotes finished in last place.

“The organization has done a really good job,” Tocchet said. “We’re in the mix. We’re in first place. I’m representing the players. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the players.”

Last season, Tocchet finished sixth in the Jack Adams Trophy voting, which is awarded the top head coach in the league. That was the second-highest finish among Pacific Division coaches behind only Bill Peters, who finished in fourth place in the voting, leading the Calgary Flames. He is no longer Calgary’s coach.

Tocchet’s other head coaching experience came as he previously led the Tampa Bay Lightning for two seasons from 2008-2010.

The Coyotes’ player representative at this year’s All-Star game is goaltender Darcy Kuemper, whom Tocchet said Wednesday will be kept out until after the All-Star break with a lower-body injury. Forward Clayton Keller was on the “Last Man In” ballot, but did not win the vote.

Tocchet is the second Coyotes coach to coach an All-Star game, joining Jim Schoenfeld (1999).

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