Coyotes head home to face Ducks
The Ducks visit Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., for the Coyotes’ home opener on Saturday night, with neither Pacific Division team satisfied with its effort in its first game of the season. The big difference is the Ducks won and the Coyotes lost, a familiar pattern from last season.
Anaheim defeated San Jose on the road 5-2 Wednesday night, outskating the team that ousted the Ducks in a four-game Western Conference first-round playoff series sweep last season.
The Ducks looked faster than they did in the playoffs, a welcomed element to a team that already has high-end talent and scoring ability.
Still, the Ducks were outshot 33-15, the kind of statistic they know they can’t repeat often if they’re to reach the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
They did get a big night in goal from John Gibson, who made 31 saves. Rookie left wing Max Comtois scored 49 seconds into his first NHL game, while right wing Rickard Rakell had a goal and two assists, center Adam Henrique contributed a goal and an assist and right wing Jakob Silfverberg had three assists.
“(But) we didn’t manage the puck at all,” defenseman Cam Fowler told the Orange County Register. “We turned the puck over a lot. We didn’t get on the forecheck, which is our bread and butter. We seemed to be chasing the game for the majority of it.
“Actually, when we got a 4-2 lead (on Henrique’s power-play goal midway through the third period), we played our best hockey. We were skating. We were pushing the pace.”
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet felt his mostly young team got pushed around too much in a 3-0 loss Thursday against the Dallas Stars, who bunched their goals in a span of 96 seconds in the second period. For the rest of the game, the Coyotes controlled the flow as much as the Stars did, but that wasn’t good enough for Tocchet.
“We had some chances,” said Tocchet, whose team hit a couple of posts and the crossbar with shots. “We had a stretch there when they were pushing us around and our pushback wasn’t good for seven or eight minutes. We had a couple of crucial mistakes. … Six or seven guys, I didn’t like their game and that was the difference. We can’t have seven or eight passengers.”
Tocchet sounded much like he did early in his first season as the Coyotes coach a year ago, when they lost their first 11 games, 10 in regulation, and never recovered.
“We can’t be happy. It’s a loss,” right wing Michael Grabner said Friday. “We’ve got to work on getting the puck in and maybe getting a garbage goal, and get some momentum on our side.”
The Ducks were 3-1 against the Coyotes last season — including Anaheim wins in the opening and closing games of the Arizona season. The Coyotes have been shut out in two successive games, dating back to their 3-0 loss to Anaheim on April 7.
“We’ve got to clean it up … and hopefully, get a win on Saturday night,” newly appointed team captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said.
If the Coyotes do win, they would be well ahead of schedule. They didn’t get their first victory last season until Oct. 30, and the first in regulation until Nov. 16.
There’s a chance former New Jersey Devils left wing Brian Gibbons will make his Ducks debut after signing a one-year contract during the offseason. He’s been out with a hand injury, but resumed practicing this week.
“He’s pretty much up to speed and ready to go,” coach Randy Carlyle said Friday.