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Neutral Zone: Johan Larsson eyeing possible surgery

Craig Morgan Avatar
January 31, 2022

Coyotes center Johan Larsson has been playing through a groin injury since the early part of the season, two sources told PHNX Sports. That injury appears to have climbed higher and now appears to be a sports hernia.

Larsson will see a specialist on Monday to gain a better sense of the plan ahead, but it is likely that he is facing surgery. If the extent of the damage is minimal, Larsson could be back before the March 21 NHL trade deadline. If it is worse, he could be out until late April. Either way, he hopes to return this season, but the timing is clearly significant because Larsson is one of the Coyotes’ best trade deadline assets.

Player card courtesy of The Athletic

Playoff teams are almost always looking for help at the center position and Larsson brings a unique set of skills between his strong defensive play, his ability to sustain a forecheck and his ability to play in multiple situations.

After going without a goal and managing five points through late December, Larsson has seven goals and 11 points in his past 12 games.

A rendering a ASU’s new multi-purpose arena. (Courtesy of Sun Devil Athletics)

Seating capacity at ASU

Since PHNX Sports reported that the Coyotes were in advanced talks with Arizona State University to use the school’s new multi-purpose facility as their interim arena, there has been a fair amount of speculation about the seating capacity at the venue.

First, it is important to note that all such speculation is premature. Until a deal exists and the Coyotes get a sense of the bowl, nobody knows what seating will look like. The Coyotes, not the NHL and not ASU, will determine what their seating capacity will be once a deal is struck, two sources told PHNX.

The reason such speculation exists is manyfold. NHL arenas must accommodate a larger media contingent than college hockey arenas and there are issues with ASU’s capacity in that regard. Aside from that need, teams’ management staffs, media relations, game staffs and scouts need seats, and NHL arenas typically use more cameras for television broadcasts than college teams so some seats might have to be blocked out to find a home for those cameras.

The multi-purpose facility actually holds a little more than 5,000 when all areas are factored into the count. Here is a breakdown:

General seating: 2,510
Club seats (also in bowl): 576
Drink rail seating: 266
Premium seats: 340
Suites: 284
Upper loge boxes: 20 
Rinkside loges (bunker seats): 20
Bleacher seats: 838
Party deck, standing room and ADA compliant: 319

The venue has a decent sized press box that seats 28. On most days, that is enough to hold all digital media and scouts who attend games. The arena also has 20 suites and two group suites, some of which might have to be used to accommodate staff and players who do not dress for games.

The venue has a broadcast booth but it is small. Home and visiting teams both generally need booths for TV and radio crews, and the NHL also needs space for its stats crew.

It is unclear if the planned party deck (Devil deck) could accommodate temporary seating to increase capacity but that is the only area where added seats seem plausible.

Two sources told PHNX that the deal is close to complete and could be on the agenda at the Arizona Board of Regents on Feb. 10. The Arizona Board of Regents must approve the deal for it to take effect.

As previously reported, due to NCAA compliance issues, the Coyotes would not be permitted to use Sun Devil hockey’s team areas. They would have to build their own. One source estimated that cost between $15 and $20 million, with all of that money coming out of owner Alex Meruelo’s pocket.

Sources told PHNX that ASU will require full payment for that entire cost, as well as the length of the lease cost (three years with an option for a fourth) up front. The university will not assume any financial risk with the deal.

Photo courtesy of Arizona Coyotes

Skatin’ for Leighton

About 400 people turned out at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday for the second annual “Skatin’ for Leighton” event hosted by the Coyotes. The Coyotes and Phoenix Children’s Hospital invited participants to rollerblade, run or walk the racetrack in an effort to raise $149,000 to benefit the Leighton Accardo Memorial Fund that financially supports youth female hockey players. 

Sun Devils come up just short

The task was tall for ASU’s men’s hockey team. The Sun Devils needed at least one win at No. 1 Minnesota State over the weekend to keep realistic hopes of an NCAA Tournament invitation alive. The Mavericks were 12-1 at home and were riding an 11-game home winning streak.

ASU (15-14) came up just short in a pair of two-goal losses (4-2, 5-3), including a Saturday game in which they pulled within 4-3 in the closing moments on two Josh Doan goals before Minnesota State iced the game with an empty-net goal.

“We were right there,” coach Greg Powers said. “We scored first in both games and we went into the first intermission tied the first night and up the second.”

Rough second periods marred by penalties (some of them controversial) gave the Mavericks momentum on the power play and the chance to build leads. A controversial fourth goal in the first game also gave Minnesota State a three-goal lead that the director of officiating later admitted to Powers should not have happened due to what looked like blatant goaltender interference.

With the two losses, ASU fell to No. 23 in the PairWise rankings. The Sun Devils are not mathematically eliminated and Powers said they are still trying to add one more game with discussions ongoing with two teams, but the Devils will need to win out and also get some help from other teams. They don’t control their destiny any more and the Tournament is a long shot at best.

“We’re really proud of our guys,” Powers said. “I think they went up and they did as well, if not better than anybody has all year in that building. But we’re also beyond the point of moral victories. We really believed we could go up there and get a win so it is what it is.”

ASU hosts Alaska Fairbanks on Friday and Saturday at Oceanside Ice Arena before taking a three-week break. When the Devils return from that break (assuming they haven’t scheduled another game), they travel for a return series at Fairbanks, and then close out the season at home against Long Island University on March 11-12. Those are the final two games for the program at Oceanside before they move into their new on-campus arena.

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