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Johan Larsson saw chance to make 1st playoff appearance with Coyotes

Buffalo Sabres left wing Johan Larsson (22) shoots in front of Arizona Coyotes defenseman Nicklas Grossmann in the first period during an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Forward Johan Larsson said a couple of other teams were vying for his talents on the free agent market. But after the 28-year-old Swede spoke to new Arizona Coyotes manager Bill Armstrong, the decision to sign a two-year deal with the Coyotes was an easy choice.

“I think the potential of the team is very high and I think they had a decent year last year and I think they want to be better,” Larsson said. “I had a good talk and how they see me as a player and what kind of player I am and where I’m going to fit in and things like that.

“So that was the feeling I had and I went with that,” he added. “I felt like (Armstrong) had a lot of passion when I was talking to him — the way he wanted to come down there and really wants to win. The passion he had and how he wants to build and be a really good team, where he comes from, he knows. I think he really got me there, so it was a really good talk with him.”

Larsson had been a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization since 2013, when he was traded from the Minnesota Wild.

Last year, he scored six goals with 12 assists in 62 games played. Larsson mentioned that other than playing the Coyotes at Gila River Arena, he has no familiarity with the state of Arizona.

Moving to the desert from Buffalo, he knows, will be an adjustment.

“I’ve been in Buffalo for a long time, so it’s definitely going to be a little weird,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s a new opportunity for me — came from somewhere else, maybe have some other eyes on you and see some new environments and get that feeling that it could be good for me.”

However, Larsson won’t be a complete stranger inside Arizona’s locker room. That’s because the 28-year-old spent time with Coyotes teammates Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson on the Swedish national team.

“When you have a Swedish guy or someone you know on the team, it always helps you,” Larsson said. “It helps a lot and (OEL has) been there a long time.

“So I think if you come in as a new guy, it’s always good to have a countryman with you — maybe a bit more when you’re younger — but it always helps to speak the same language and everything around maybe gets a little easier, taken care of and you can ask easy questions.”

Larsson said he chose the Coyotes was because of the opportunity he sees to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In his eight-year NHL career, the forward has never played postseason hockey.

“That’s why I think you want to be in the game,” he said. “You watch it every year and you’re not in there, you kind of add a sour taste to it.

“So for sure, it’s tough. I want to come to Arizona. I think the potential is really high, but I know at the same time it’s really hard to get there. It’s the hardest sport to get there I feel like and I’m going to do everything to get Arizona there and go far.”


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