ARIZONA COYOTES

Coyotes F Phil Kessel: 2019-20 was a tough year for injuries

Jun 30, 2020, 4:30 PM
Phil Kessel #81 of the Arizona Coyotes skates with the puck during the NHL game against the Toronto...
Phil Kessel #81 of the Arizona Coyotes skates with the puck during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Gila River Arena on November 21, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Maple Leafs defeated the Coyotes 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes’ long pause in the season before the planned return to play has this silver lining: Everyone could, in theory, get healthy.

That included Phil Kessel, who dealt with a groin injury early on in the season. The extent to which that affected his play can’t be certain to anyone, but it is clear that 2019-20 wasn’t Kessel’s best year. The former Penguins, Leafs and Bruins star had only 14 goals in 70 games in his debut year with Arizona, well below the 25+ he consistently put up previously.

“Obviously I had a tough year,” Kessel told media in a Zoom call on Tuesday. “I think it’s probably my most injuries I’ve had is this year, but that’s no excuse, right? It’s one of those years, and obviously I’m not going to look to never have that again. I’ve never had a year like that. So I’m looking to bounce back.”

Kessel wouldn’t say that the injuries were the reason for his slip in goal production. It’s worth noting that he didn’t miss any games, and Kessel currently maintains one of the longest active ironman streaks in the NHL. He hasn’t missed a game since the 2009-10 season.

Arizona is slated to play the Nashville Predators in a best-of-five play-in series in late July or early August. When that gets going, the Coyotes’ performance as a whole will determine the sample size for which we see Kessel after the hiatus.

Kessel is one of several Coyotes who have extensive playoff experience, and one of a few who have won a Stanley Cup. Kessel is a two-time champion, both coming with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I think it matters,” Kessel said of having playoff experience. “I think guys that have been there in those spots, they know what to expect and what to do. And I think to be honest, it’s a different level of hockey, and it’s a faster, more crisp game. It’s a fun time of year.

“We’re going to have to get into it right away. I think it’s going to be a different playoff than ever before, obviously. I think without fans and everything, it’s going to be strange. But I think guys know what they’re playing for. And we all want the chance to win.”

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