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TAMPA, Florida — The frustration is setting in for the Coyotes.
You could hear it in Lawson Crouse’s impassioned postgame interview. You could read it on the face of coach André Tourigny. You could see it in the body language of Tucson call-up Ivan Prosvetov, who was thrown straight into the fire to face the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, a hungry team that was looking for its first win at Amalie Arena.
Prosvetov was sharp in goal early, turning aside forward Pierre-Édouard Bellemare’s point-blank chance from the slot and Steven Stamkos’ backdoor one-timer with good positioning and compact movements. Liam O’Brien gave the Coyotes some life by fighting Pat Maroon and gesturing to the bench afterward to raise their energy level.
But an errant Phil Kessel pass led to Alex Killorn’s goal off a 2-on-1. A Dysin Mayo turnover at the Lightning blue line led to Killorn’s partial breakaway goal, and a lucky bounce for Stamkos off Provetov’s pad had the Coyotes in a three-goal hole halfway through the first period. In this building, against this team, that was too great a hill to climb in a 5-1 loss on Thursday that dropped the Coyotes to an NHL-worst 0-6-1.
“It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie to you,” Crouse said. “It sucks in that locker room right now. We’re all born competitors. We all want to win and we’ve gotta figure it out.
“What’s that, seven (losses) now? It’s not fun. It really does suck but as a team we need to get through this and I believe in our group. I truly do. Every single guy in that locker room works hard, has the right mind set. We’ve just got to stick to it and put this behind us and move on.”
Here are five takeaways from Tampa.
Barrett is back
On the surface, Barrett Hayton’s recall from the Tucson Roadrunners probably came a little too soon. He only played four AHL games, he only had one point in those four games and the best thing for him may have been to build more confidence because his game was better than the stats indicate.
But as GM Bill Armstrong warned before the season when he assigned Hayton to Tucson after the center’s injury-shortened preseason, other injuries could derail the organization’s best-laid plans. Those injuries came to forwards Nick Schmaltz (day to day, upper body) and Ryan Dzingel (week to week, upper body) in Sunrise, Florida on Monday.
“Everybody’s got a plan until you get punched in the face,” Armstrong said. “You weigh everything back and forth in this decision and you want to put him in a good situation where he’s going to play and develop, not sit on the bench.
“I think that’s one of the key factors here is that he’s got some NHL experience. He’s not going to come up and sit out. He’s going to play. He’s going to be put in some situations where he’s going to see some minutes which is going to benefit him and help him become a better player and help the Coyotes organization. You can’t beat the opportunity that’s in front of him.”
Despite the Tucson point total, Armstrong said that Hayton was the Roadrunners’ best skater over that four-game stretch. Hayton said he returned to Tucson with a business-like approach.
“It was big for me to have that mindset of just going in there and dominating and focusing on playing a sound game, playing a complete game,” he said. “I feel like I was able to have an impact on games and dominate.
“Being injured in camp sucks because that is what you look forward to all summer. Having to watch those games was hard. You want to be on the ice, but there’s nothing you can do so you focus on healing, focus on your rehab with the staff and just being ready once your body has healed.”
With Schmaltz out, Hayton could get a good long look here with three games over four days in Tampa, Washington, and Raleigh, North Carolina. On Thursday, he skated between wings Lawson Crouse and Clayton Keller, the same linemates he had through much of camp, and two players who have played well early in the season. He logged 15:16 of ice time (1:03 on the power play) and he had the primary assist on Crouse’s third-period goal.
“My mindset is to take a spot,” he said. “With injuries, they’re part of the game and it’s an opportunity for me. This is where I want to play. I’m hungry to stay here and prove that I am not just an NHL player but an impactful NHL player.”
The Capitals and Hurricanes will offer Hayton two more stiff tests with their center depth. Tourigny is anxious to see what he can do with the opportunity.
“He had a really good camp. He was flying for us; was one of our best players and he got an injury,” Tourigny said. “He did not practice, did not play in the last 10 days or more and we had a tough decision to make. We decided it would be good for him to go to Tucson and play, get his game shape, get his rhythm. We knew eventually, Barrett would have his chance with us.”
Dineen’s first recall
It’s jarring to remember that Cam Dineen is only 23 years old. It feels like an eternity ago when the Coyotes selected him in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
With Conor Timmins out for eight to 12 weeks with a lower-body injury, with Kyle Capobianco still nursing a lower-body injury, and with Vladislav Provolnev still needing more seasoning in the AHL, Dineen got his first recall this week, arriving alongside Hayton and goaltender Ivan Prosvetov at midnight after a 4:30 flight out of Arizona on Tuesday.
“It’s a big opportunity for my first call-up,” said Dineen, who was not in the lineup on Thursday. “Hopefully, I’ll get a game in. I want to stay here for as long as I can and help the team. At the same time, I’m just trying to learn a lot and soak everything in.
“It’s been three years for me down in Tucson. I love it down there, the coaching staff, the team, everything is great. Being there, learning how to be a pro, learning the habits was really important for me.”
Dineen said that he worked with Roadrunners assistant coach John Slaney on a lot of defensive details.
“I came in from juniors and was an offensive defenseman, never really focused too much on the D stuff so I had to clean up a decent amount of that,” he said. “Just gap control, surfing, things like that, working down low in the corners being a smaller guy. Having his knowledge and experience really helped me.”
Dineen said it was hard to wait, but he had examples and advice from players such as Conor Garland and Michael Bunting, who toiled for a long time in the AHL before making it in the NHL.
“It’s definitely hard,” he said. “Luckily, I have been around a lot of those guys who have had lengthy AHL careers, kind of late bloomers and then they got their chance and took it and ran with it. I think with a lot of us down there, it’s a grind of a season and you start to wonder, ‘Am I ever going to get called up? Are things going to get better?’ Just being around those guys and being around them really helped me realize it is possible no matter when it is.”
Garland and Dineen lived together in Dineen’s first season in Tucson in 2018-19.
“We would enjoy a coffee and small donut most days together,” Garland said. “He ate better than me but when the turn was coming up, I would yell the name of the donut shop some days on rides home from practice. It used to always get a laugh from him.
“I’m so happy for him; really the nicest person you will meet.”
With a compacted schedule, the Coyotes will likely need Dineen to step into the lineup at some point soon. Tourigny thinks that Dineen has progressed to the point where he is ready for that challenge.
“Cam, to be honest, had a little bit of a slow start and then he came up big at the end of his camp,” Tourigny said. “His game on the road (at Anaheim), he was really good, played solid, moved the puck well, took good shots on net, played a lot of minutes, is a really good skater.
“We play three games in four days but it’s (really) three games in three and a half days (the Carolina game is a matinee). It will be a quick turnover so we’ll need everybody to contribute.”
Andrew Ladd statement on Blackhawks scandal
Coyotes forward Andrew Ladd was a member of the 2010 Blackhawks team currently under intense criticism for its handling of the alleged sexual assault by former video coach Brad Aldrich on former prospect Kyle Beach.
I asked the Coyotes for Ladd’s thoughts on the scandal, and also what he knew. Here is his statement:
“There are no words that can do justice to the pain and suffering Kyle has gone through over the past 11 years. My hope is that the courage he has shown throughout this process will help other victims going forward. This shines a light on the shortcomings we have in the hockey community and what we MUST improve upon. This is an opportunity for everyone within the game to learn, grow and do everything within our power to ensure we create a safe and supportive environment for all involved and I look forward to being a part of that process.
“With regard to the incident, I cooperated with the investigation. I had no knowledge about what happened to Kyle during my time with the Blackhawks. I realize it’s within reason to think that all the players may have known but I can assure you I was never informed or overheard any discussions about the incident during the playoffs that year.”
Ivan Prosvetov got the nod in net on Thursday and stopped 23 of 28 Tampa shots. The stats don’t do justice to how he played. Other than the third goal by Stamkos, Prosvetov did not allow anything questionable and he made some big saves.
On the other hand, it is fair to wonder why the Coyotes recalled Prosvetov to put him into this environment instead of calling up Josef Kořenář. Prosvetov is the franchise’s top goaltending prospect. Is this sort of environment really conducive to building confidence and developing?
Everyone agrees that Prosvetov needs more development time in the AHL, but Armstrong said this recall had nothing to do with the fact that Kořenář has only played one AHL game. Prosvetov earned this recall with his play, which included a pair of shutouts. Through three games, he has a .944 save percentage and a 1.34 goals against average in the AHL.
“He has really made the transition down there,” Armstrong said.
With Carter Hutton out two to four weeks, it remains to be seen how long Prosvetov will stay with the club, but he will almost certainly remain for the final three games of this Eastern swing (the team will returns home between the game at Philadelphia on Nov. 2 and a road game at Anaheim on Nov. 5).
If Hutton is out only two weeks, this may be a moot point, but if Hutton is out four weeks or more, how long are the Coyotes willing to expose Prosvetov to such trying circumstances?
That stupid schedule… again
In some ways, it may be better for the Coyotes to get right back on the horse in Washington on Friday after a tough loss on Thursday. On the other hand, this six-game road trip is the classic example of bad NHL scheduling that the Coyotes face on an annual basis.
As often happens, the Coyotes had one day in between a home game and road game on the East Coast when they played Florida on Monday. Now they go back-to-back in Tampa and Washington, followed by a third game in four days which is the aforementioned matinee in Carolina. Two days later, they play in Philadelphia, and then they fly clear across the country (with a stop home in Arizona) for a Friday game in Anaheim.
These are the kinds of trips that should at least raise red flags with the schedule makers. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, this is the sort of scheduling to which they are subjected every season.