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Coyotes to be without Oliver Ekman-Larsson for Vegas matchup

FILE - This Jan. 6, 2019, file photo shows Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson skating against the New York Rangers during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

The Arizona Coyotes will be without captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson when they start a four-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday.

OEL suffered a lower body injury after a hard hit into the boards by the San Jose Sharks’ Evander Kane in the third period of Saturday’s game. The defenseman was helped off the ice and didn’t return to the game.

Head coach Rick Tocchet told reporters via Zoom Sunday that Ekman-Larsson is day-to-day going forward, but would not be traveling to Las Vegas with the team.

Through the first two games of the season, OEL has recorded three assists and averaged 19:22 minutes on the ice.

The team will look to either Kyle Capobianco, who has been a healthy scratch the last two games, or Jordan Gross on the taxi squad to fill the open slot.

Gross played in two games for the Coyotes last season, recording one assist and three shots on goal. He may be the more likely candidate to take the ice, as he shoots the same as Ekman-Larsson.

“That’s something we’re going to have to mull over tonight,” the head coach said.

As the team prepares to face the current West division leader, Tocchet likened the games to a playoff series, but is undeterred by the length and solely focusing on Monday first.

“They’re a good hockey club,” he said. “They’re built to win a Stanley Cup so we’ve got to be ready with five man units.”

The Golden Knights are projected as top contenders after signing free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in the offseason. In ESPN’s final NHL preseason rankings, Vegas took the No. 3 spot behind the Lightning and Avalanche.

But Tocchet believes his team is more than ready for the challenge, as long as they adopt the right mindset.

“They’ve got some top end players, he said. “They’ve got some high-end guys that can score. … I don’t want to be going in there and being intimidated. We shouldn’t be intimidated if we play the right way.

“We’ve got to have some swagger going in there, knowing that if we play our game, we can beat this team.”

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