The Arizona Coyotes’ season had already been going well. Then on Tuesday night, it got a burst of new potential for the postseason.
Forward Taylor Hall, the 2017-18 NHL Most Valuable Player, debuted for the Coyotes after being acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils. With some hustle down the ice to beat a defender and get to the puck, Hall had an assist in what ended up being the game-winning goal in Arizona’s 3-2 win at San Jose.
Hall will make his home debut for the Coyotes on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game for us, but we battled to the end, and our penalty kill came up huge,” said Hall, who admitted to not feeling at full strength after traveling and being held out for a week while the Devils worked out a deal for him. “I just wanted to be a part of the group and get that first game over with.”
Players and head coach Rick Tocchet raved about their new first-line winger. Tocchet said Hall was playing on only a few hours of sleep.
“We got him because of that last goal,” Tocchet told NHL.com. “He muscled his way through, wins a big 1-on-1 battle, and that is a big play for us.”
The Coyotes (20-12-4) sit on 44 points and entered Wednesday alone in first place in the Pacific Division. They’ve gotten there in no small part due to strong goaltending from Darcy Kuemper, as well as the Western Conference’s best road record, 12-4-3.
At home, it’s a different story. Arizona is 8-8-1 heading into Thursday’s game against Minnesota, and has lost some head-scratching games to teams with significantly worse overall records. The Coyotes have lost five of their last seven home games, four in regulation.
The Wild (16-14-5) have lost two straight games after a 3-2 defeat at Vegas on Tuesday. Minnesota is 5-3-1 in December but has lost three consecutive road games.
“When you’re on the road and you can go into the third period in a building like this 1-1, you got a real good shot,” coach Bruce Boudreau told the Star Tribune after the Vegas game. “When you’re going and it’s 2-1, then all of a sudden you’re taking chances, and they’re extremely good at capitalizing on miscues. So it makes a total difference in the game.”
The Wild figure to be short-handed on Thursday. Captain Mikko Koivu has left the team and returned to Minnesota for treatment of a lower-body injury that has cost him seven straight games. Winger Jason Zucker was sent back to the Twin Cities because of a lower-body injury that is expected to keep him out for some time, and center Joel Eriksson Ek was placed on injured reserve Monday with an upper-body injury.
Zucker is second on the team in points with 24.
The Wild rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits to upend the Coyotes 4-3 in Glendale, Ariz. on Nov. 9. Five days later, they beat the Coyotes 3-2 at home.
–Field Level Media