Preview: Coyotes at Bruins, 4:30 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona Plus
With one day left to the NHL trade deadline and three veterans already shipped out to postseason contenders, the Coyotes open a three-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins.
The Coyotes haven’t won in Boston since March 5, 2009, and they haven’t beaten the Bruins at any venue since splitting a pair of games in the Czech Republic to open the 2010-11 season.
Arizona is expecting to insert forward Teemu Pulkkinen into the lineup tonight after acquiring him on Monday from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for future considerations. It was the second deal in two days with Minnesota, following Sunday’s trade of forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White. Earlier last week, the Coyotes sent defenseman Michael Stone to Calgary. In exchange, they’ve added multiple draft picks.
With the Coyotes (22-32-7) well outside of playoff contention, the shedding of veterans on expiring contracts was not unexpected, but that doesn’t mean it was easy to accept. The loss of Hanzal, who broke in with the Coyotes as a rookie 10 years ago, was particularly difficult.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve said he was our most important forward,” Shane Doan said. “For 10 years, being able to play with him and see everything he does … I sure appreciated it.
“You can search a long time before you can find a 6-foot-6 centerman that’s kind of mean and effective on both ends of the ice and makes your power play better and is probably your best penalty killer. You don’t find those guys too often, and when you do you try to hold on to them.
“I’m very disappointed in the fact he’s not with us anymore. I have no control over it as a player, so you just have to deal with it.”
Coach Dave Tippett said Hanzal’s contract status made a deal inevitable.
“He’s an unrestricted free agent, simple as that,” Tippett said. “He’s an unrestricted free agent without a contract at the end (of the season). The position that our group is in right now — the building process we’re going through — these are just steps that you have to take.”
Leading scorer Radim Vrbata, 35, is another potential trade chip, but he’s hoping to stay. Vrbata has 46 points on the season after totaling just 27 a year ago in Vancouver, and his nine-game point streak is two short of the franchise record — shared by Doan and Jeremy Roenick.
“I said all along, if this is the last season, I would like to finish it here,” he said. “That’s why I signed here. But you never know. We’ll see.”
The Bruins (32-24-6) have won six of seven since interim coach Bruce Cassidy took over for Claude Julien, outscoring their opponents by a combined 31-14 in those seven games. They capped a four-game western trip on Sunday with a 6-3 win at Dallas.
“I think we showed a lot of character during that road trip,” Patrice Bergeron said after Sunday’s win. “It’s not an easy trip. We’re playing some big, heavy teams and a fast team with a lot of skill today. It wasn’t easy by any means, and I thought we battled through it.
Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci, Boston’s three most important offensive players, have all flourished under Cassidy. Bergeron and Marchand have nine points apiece and Krejci eight under Cassidy’s watch.
Marchand leads the Bruins with 27 goals and 64 points. Forward David Pastrnak is enjoying a breakout season with 26 goals and 51 points.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask is 8-1-0 in his career vs. Arizona, with a 1.66 goals-against average and a save percentage of .940.