Schmaltz makes home debut as Coyotes host Blues
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some NHL teams wait weeks for a newly acquired player to produce. Some wait months. Some wait forever as the production never comes.
Schmaltz will make his home-ice debut Saturday night when the Coyotes play the St. Louis Blues, who were 3-2 overtime winners at Colorado on Friday.
Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill, coming off his first NHL career shutout, also is expected to make his first start at home this season.
The Coyotes were coming off a pair of dreadful home-ice losses, 6-1 to the Calgary Flames on Sunday and 5-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 23, when general manager John Chayka acquired Schmaltz from the Chicago Blackhawks for former first-round draft picks Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome.
Schmaltz didn’t get on the scoresheet but made a tangible difference with his speed and playmaking skills the Tuesday as the Coyotes rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on the road.
On Thursday, Schmaltz shifted to center — his preferred position — with Alex Galchenyuk and Clayton Keller as his linemates and produced a goal and an assist in a 3-0 road shutout of the Nashville Predators. Hill made 29 saves in his first start of the season and only the fifth of his career.
“That’s why we got Nick,” Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. “It was nice to get production, basically, from all the lines.”
Schmaltz set up Keller’s goal 1:40 into the second period, then scored himself on the power play in the final 21 seconds of the period to make it 2-0.
“We knew it was going to come at some point, and we just kept working and got rewarded,” Schmaltz said. “Those are two guys (his linemates) who see the game at a similar level and we like to make plays and find each other and support each other. I think the chemistry is going to keep getting better and growing each and every night.”
It was quite the turnaround for the Coyotes, who went from two of the worst losses — both aesthetically and score-wise — of Tocchet’s two-season tenure to two of their more impressive road wins.
Hill was the big surprise; he was playing at Tucson (AHL) before being called up last weekend when No. 1 goaltender Antti Raanta and No. 2 Darcy Kuemper both sustained lower-body injuries at about the same time.
“Two games ago we were the worst team in the league, now I’m sure people are going to say we’re great again,” Tocchet said. “I’m not a roller-coaster guy, it’s (stay) even keel. Keep doing the right things, hopefully. You’re going to go through some lulls, you manage those and you manage wins, and highs. I think that’s important for any team. Young kids are learning, too, to manage your emotions after wins and losses.”
The Coyotes were 1-3-1 on a five-game homestand that preceded the two road wins, but they won four of five on home ice before that.
The Blues are a team acquainted with roller-coaster rides, too. They won four of five from Oct. 27-Nov. 9 but had lost seven of nine before beating the Avalanche on defenseman Colton Parayko’s goal at 1:34 of overtime. Jake Allen made 27 saves, including a succession of difficult stops.
St. Louis came into the game with the fewest wins (8) in the league, and this was their first one-goal victory all season.
“Obviously, there’s a point (of the season) where we want to turn it around, and I think this was a huge win for us,” Parayko said. “It was a team win that started in the back with Jake and went all the way through the lineup. I thought we had a solid effort, and we want to continue with it.”
The Coyotes were 2-0-1 against the Blues last season. Schmaltz’s older brother, Jordan, is a Blues defenseman.