Stars seek to even record, keep Coyotes winless (Oct 17, 2017)

October 17, 2017

DALLAS -- On Saturday night, the Dallas Stars bounced back from a 4-1 loss at Nashville two days earlier to defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 at American Airlines Center.

Next up for Dallas (2-3-0) is a Tuesday visit from the Arizona Coyotes (0-4-1), who lost 6-2 at home to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Even though the Coyotes are the lone winless team in the NHL, Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock knows Arizona still has the talent to rise up and notch its first win on any given night. The Coyotes have three ex-Stars on their blue line, Kevin Connauton, Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski.

"Today was my first look at them," Hitchcock said after practice on Monday. "They got a lot of speed, a lot of skill, a lot of transition defensemen. We got to make sure they don't get loose on us because if they do, they can really go. ...


"Our job is to make sure they (the Coyotes) don't get going in transition."

Arizona might be winless, but Hitchcock has immense respect for Coyotes first-year coach Rick Tocchet. In the early 1990s, Hitchcock was as an assistant coach in Philadelphia when Tocchet played for the Flyers. That was several years before Hitchcock earned his first head-coaching job with Dallas in January 1996.

"He's done a great job. He's stayed with it as a coach," Hitchcock said of Tocchet. "I'm really happy for him that he's got a head (coaching) job. He's had a lot of high-maintenance players there (when he was an assistant in Pittsburgh), and he's done a great job with them."

One area which Hitchcock, who was hired in April after Dallas missed the playoffs last season under Lindy Ruff, takes great pride in is how strong the Stars have been thus far on special teams.

The Stars have scored a power-play goal in each of their first five games for the first time since 1990-91, when the franchise was the Minnesota North Stars. Dallas' power play has converted 27.8 percent of its opportunities thus far, sixth best in the NHL.

And the penalty kill, a huge Stars weakness last season, has also done its part, killing 85.7 percent of opposing power plays, ninth best in the league.

"That's probably the element of our game that's improved the most, our special teams," Hitchcock said. "Both special teams have really got continuity going right now."

Something else taking hold in Dallas is the culture change from how things were the past few seasons under Ruff to how Hitchcock, who previously led the Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup, wants them to be.

And for Dallas' top-line center Tyler Seguin, who had a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight) against Colorado on Saturday with one of his rare fights, that culture change involves everyone on the roster.

"It's going out of your comfort zone. It's fighting (when you don't normally fight). It's blocking shots for guys who don't normally block shots," Seguin said. "When you look at successful teams, they have guys who go out of their comfort zone every game, every day. It's still very early in the year, but you want to see things early on to send a message for how the rest of the year should be."

The Coyotes, who will turn around and host Dallas on Thursday in Glendale, Ariz., practiced Monday morning at home before catching a plane to Texas.

With Antti Raanta, who is still sidelined with a lower-body injury, not practicing, the Coyotes recalled goaltender Adin Hill from AHL Tucson on Monday morning.

Hill likely will back up Louis Domingue, who has become the de-facto starting goaltender for the Coyotes while Raanta recuperates.

Tocchet said after practice that anything is possible for Tuesday night.

"(Hill) could play," Tocchet told the Coyotes' official website. "He's not here just to practice."

Should Hill receive the nod in net on Tuesday, it would be his NHL debut.

Tocchet shuffled his lines a bit at practice on Monday, dropping Clayton Keller down to the second line and moving Tobias Rieder up to skate alongside Max Domi and Derek Stepan.

The Coyotes, who are off to their worst start through five games in franchise history, also will have Connauton available to return to the blue line after he was cleared. He had been slowed by a lower-body injury.

However, facing a suddenly resurgent Dallas team is a challenge the new Coyotes coach welcomes.

"I'm excited," Tocchet said. "We're going into a tough building, and Dallas is a really good team. It's exciting for me to see how they respond and where we're going to be."