GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes endured more than their share of injuries, losses and tough travel to start the season, but there is one area in which Arizona is fortunate. The team is tied for the fewest number of games played in the league at 17.
That is about to change.
Starting with a Wednesday home game against the Vancouver Canucks at Gila River Arena, Arizona will play every other day or back-to-back days for the next 46 days — a total of 23 games. They won't have more than one day off in a row until Dec. 24-26.
The World Cup of Hockey created a condensed schedule for all NHL teams, and the Coyotes are about to pay the piper, eliminating much of their practice time and forcing coach Dave Tippett to get creative.
“There are times when rest is going to be a better factor, but you still don't stop preparing even though you use rest to allow you to play better in games,” Tippett said. “With our group, we still do lots of video because we've got a young group that's still learning a lot of situations. You don't stop teaching. You don't stop finding solutions in a game. Sometimes it's just not through practice.”
The Canucks (19 games played) face a similar situation with only two two-day rests on the schedule for the next month and 16 games on the slate. That doesn't bode well for a team whose early-season struggles nearly matched the Coyotes'. Vancouver (16 points) and Arizona (14 points) are two of the bottom three teams in the league standings.
Vancouver is still smarting from blowing a three-goal, third-period lead against the Blackhawks on Saturday and losing in overtime at home. The collapse began when Chicago scored two goals in the first 4:06 of the third period.
“I don't think we panicked, but they got momentum off it and started coming at us and were hard to handle,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. “We needed to be more aggressive, and we didn't sustain enough. We had to get after it. We didn't want to sit back.”
While the Coyotes earned points in each of their past three games (1-0-2), the Canucks are 3-2-1 in their past six games, including a 3-2 overtime win over the Coyotes in Vancouver on Thursday.
Arizona settled its fluctuating center position this week when it sent 2015 first-round pick Dylan Strome back to juniors on Sunday to play for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League. The move came one day after the team lost veteran center Brad Richardson to a broken tibia and fibula in the game against Vancouver. Richardson will be sidelined indefinitely.
With both of those players gone, the Coyotes will rely on a depth chart of Martin Hanzal, rookie Christian Dvorak, rookie Laurent Dauphin and converted left winger Jordan Martinook, who played center in juniors.
“I feel like every game I get more and more comfortable,” Martinook said. “Now that I know it's set in stone, I'll focus a little more on the little things like faceoffs. Wherever they put me, wherever they want to play me, I'll do it and I'll do it with a smile on.”
Arizona right winger Ryan White (upper body) and defenseman Alex Goligoski (illness) practiced Tuesday and are expected to play. Mike Smith will start in goal.
Vancouver forwards Derek Dorsett (shoulder), Jannik Hansen (undisclosed) and Anton Rodin (knee) and defenseman Chris Tanev (lower body) are on injured reserve. Goalie Ryan Miller is over his case of the flu and is expected to start. The Canucks recalled forward Joseph Labate from Utica of the AHL on Tuesday.