Preview: Wild vs. Coyotes
ST. PAUL — Winners of just two games in their last 10 and owners of the 30th-ranked offense in the 31-team NHL, the Arizona Coyotes needed to make a move in order to help their offense.
They made a bet Sunday night that forward Nick Schmaltz is the answer, dealing forwards Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome to Chicago in a swap of first round picks who are all hoping a change of scenery does them good.
Schmaltz is expected to make his debut for Arizona Tuesday night when it starts a brief two-game road trip by facing the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
The 22-year old Schmaltz, who put up 21 goals and 31 assists last season for the Blackhawks, was off to a slow start this season. In 23 games, Schmaltz had just two goals and nine helpers with a minus four rating. In 162 career matches, Schmaltz has 29 goals and 62 assists.
“It was a shock,” Schmaltz said of the trade. “But at the same time, I know a lot of players on the Coyotes so it’s really exciting. It’s a young group, and a lot of skill up front, so I’m really excited to get started.”
Schmaltz isn’t kidding when he says he knows a lot of Arizona’s players. Right wing Vinnie Hinostroza, left wing Richard Panik and veteran defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson also started their careers with Chicago before being jettisoned to the desert.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka sees Schmaltz as a potential first-line performer.
“He can play center, he can play wing,” Chayka said. “When he’s playing center, he’s an elite skater and can really push the pace from the middle of the ice. I think that adds another element and dimension to our team that we’ve been missing.”
Defense hasn’t been the issue for Arizona (9-11-2), which has allowed just 62 goals, tied for fourth-fewest in the league with Minnesota. But it has managed just 52 goals despite boasting a decent amount of young offensive talent like Clayton Keller, Alex Galchenyuk and Christian Fischer.
The Coyotes were beat 6-1 Sunday by Calgary in Glendale, ceding three short-handed goals and not managing a shot on net in 7:53 of power play time. Coach Rick Tocchet said prior to the trade that he would consider lineup changes to spark the offense.
Meanwhile, the Wild (14-7-2) hasn’t played since Friday, when it rallied for four third period goals to stop Central Division rival Winnipeg 4-2. They are tied with the Jets for second place in the division, five points behind Nashville.
It was an emotional win for Minnesota, which was bounced from the Western Conference playoffs last April by Winnipeg in five games. In the teams’ first meeting since then, they engaged in a rare brawl that ended with the Wild’s Marcus Foligno and Nick Seeler smack-dab in the middle of the Jets’ bench.
“I realized I was right where their head coach stands, in the middle of the bench,” Foligno said. “I was like, ‘Oh, God, this is not good territory.'”
Minnesota won its first meeting with Arizona this year, a 2-1 decision October 16 in St. Paul.