Anthony Duclair’s first career hat trick has the Arizona Coyotes aiming for the best start to a season in franchise history.
The Minnesota Wild are also looking to remain unbeaten.
Duclair and the Coyotes seek their first 4-0-0 start by ending a five-game losing streak to the Wild on Thursday night.
Arizona acquired Duclair in a trade that sent popular defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers at last season’s deadline. The 20-year-old left wing is settling in nicely, collecting five points in three games after recording his first hat trick in Wednesday’s 4-0 win at Anaheim.
"He had a solid training camp, but the great thing about him is that he’s gotten better and better," coach Dave Tippett said. "For young guys, there’s lots to learn in camp and lots to take in, and I give really give him credit. His biggest strengths are speed and skill. And on all of his goals, he shot the puck quick."
Like Duclair, rookie Max Domi is off to a superb start. The 20-year-old center and 12th overall pick from the 2013 draft has two goals and two assists so far, getting one of each against the Ducks.
Martin Hanzal leads the Coyotes with six points – all assists. He matched his career high with three Wednesday and Duclair benefited on each.
Arizona has outscored opponents 10-2 through three games and killed off all 11 power plays.
"We’ve got a good balance of speed and skill, we’re scoring some goals, we’re defending hard and playing the right way. And it’s paying off for us," Tippett said.
Minnesota is positioned to open 3-0-0 for the first time since winning the first four games of 2008-09. The Wild, though, have won their first two games by one goal, including a 3-2 victory over St. Louis on Saturday.
Coach Mike Yeo doesn’t see the long layoff as beneficial.
"I don’t know that we’d consider it a luxury right now; we’d rather be playing early in the season," he told the team’s official website.
Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle have combined for six of Minnesota’s eight goals, and Coyle assisted on another.
"It’s just moving your feet, moving the puck and getting into position," Coyle said after matching his career high with two goals against the Blues.
Devan Dubnyk is expected to get a third straight start and his first in Arizona since being traded to the Wild for a draft pick in January.
He only played 19 games with the Coyotes last season, going 9-5-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average before becoming a cornerstone for Minnesota. He went 27-9-2 with a 1.78 GAA in 39 games and helped the Wild reach the conference semifinals in the postseason.
Dubnyk, who had 30 saves Saturday, made 25 stops in a 3-1 home win over the Coyotes on Jan. 17 – three days after joining the Wild.
Dubnyk feels his limited time in Arizona proved to be valuable.
"Getting to work with (goaltending coach) Sean Burke, he just tightened up my skating, and made me aware of some things that I needed to be sharper on, and was definitely capable of being sharper on," Dubnyk said. "He opened my eyes to it, and really stuck with me on it, and that was a big thing for me at the start of the year last year."