Shane Doan

Are the Coyotes in trouble on the ice this season?


It seems like whenever we’re talking about the Phoenix Coyotes it’s always about what’s happening with their ownership situation. All the off-ice stuff gets the headlines for the lovable team in the desert that rolls onward without executive leadership while their efforts on the ice play second banana to all that. That might not be fair, but that’s life.

Going into this season, however, coach Dave Tippett is going to have his hands full in trying to keep the “Little Engine That Could” Coyotes rolling along and keeping them a playoff team. While the team is returning five of their six top scorers from last season, there’s a lot of doubt swirling about the team whether they can score enough while supporting starting goaltending that seems to be, at best, highly suspect.

Take a look at how their forwards stack up. Shane Doan (60 points), Ray Whitney (57 points), Radim Vrbata (48 points), and Lauri Korpikoski (40 points) make up part of that group of players that led the way in scoring for them last year. Doan is 35 years-old and has some hard miles on his body. Whitney turns 39 this season and has seen his production fall off in three of his last four seasons. Vrbata is 30 years-old and is one of their slicker forwards while Korpikoski put up good numbers while buried on the team’s third or fourth line on occasion.

The Coyotes offseason additions don’t bring a lot of hope to their situation up front. Raffi Torres will make them tougher to deal with and Tippett will like having his physical presence out there, but he’s not scoring goals for them. Taking a flyer on Patrick O’Sullivan in hopes he can find his old scoring touch is nice, but where the Coyotes could get their biggest push from is letting their youth run wild.

Players like Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, Andy Miele, and Victor Tikhonov haven’t had the leash taken off of them to see what they can do offensively and the Coyotes are going to need a spark from them. The one young forward that has gotten a push is Martin Hanzal thanks to his ability to win faceoffs and play tougher defensively. Tippett demands solid play both ways, even bordering on being highly dull, but getting the lift and injection of life from those youngsters is what the team could use to be a playoff team once again in the West.

Even on defense there’s youth to be found. 2009 first round pick Oliver Ekman-Larsson spent most of last season in Phoenix but as a healthy scratch. His slick puck handling and offensive abilities from the blue line could help take the pressure off of Keith Yandle (59 points) who saw his great offensive work fall off the map in the second half of the year. Asking guys like Derek Morris or even David Schlemko to help support Yandle in that role on the power play is asking more out of those guys than necessary.

Ekman-Larsson will have a bright future in the NHL, and after getting to watch a lot of it up close and personal, perhaps he’ll have the “caged animal” effect in that he’ll go through walls to win a starting job.

One thing is for sure though in Phoenix, the team has a dearth of playmaking centers and it’s something that’s going to hamper their ability to score goals. Unless Turris has a breakout season and is allowed to do his thing creatively, there’s no one else there that is a bonafide set-up man. Hanzal? No. Alexandre Bolduc? Not a chance. Kyle Chipchura? Not even close. The Coyotes will be able to grind other centers’ faces off, but they won’t be able to outscore them.

With how Dave Tippett coaches his teams, perhaps that’s just what his plan is going to be by grinding other teams into submission and give his goalies Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera as much help as possible. It’s like the only way to ensure that Phoenix can win more games than how the roster seems like it should on paper, but it’s not the exciting brand of hockey that’s going to help keep the fans excited either. Obviously Tippett is a perennial Jack Adams Award finalist for a reason, but there’s a lot that stands out on the Coyotes roster that gives us plenty to worry about.

Ducks come to terms with Lindholm, so what happens now?

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks  at Honda Center on October 14, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

And now we wait for the other shoe to drop, because according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Anaheim Ducks have come to terms with defenseman Hampus Lindholm on a six-year contract extension with a cap hit of $5.25 million.

It’s a win for the Ducks, who succeed in their quest to get Lindholm locked up with a lower cap hit than the Sabres got Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million).

But will the Ducks now have to make a trade? It’s been rumored for a while that Cam Fowler could be dealt once Lindholm’s deal got done. Anaheim may prefer to trade a veteran like Kevin Bieksa or Clayton Stoner, but Bieksa has a no-movement clause, and there may not be a market for those two anyway.

The Ducks won’t get Lindholm back in the lineup right away, so there’s plenty of time for GM Bob Murray to make any moves that need to be made.

Lindholm, 22, had 10 goals and 18 assists in 80 games last season, logging 22:00 of ice time per game.

Pastrnak to have hearing for Girardi headshot


Bruins forward David Pastrnak will have a hearing for his illegal check to the head of Rangers d-man Dan Girardi, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced.

Pastrnak was whistled for a minor penalty on the play, which occurred in the second period of Boston’s 5-2 loss at MSG on Wednesday night. Girardi left the contest momentarily, but was able to return and finished with 16:15 TOI.

“I don’t really know it makes contact with my face at first, but it is what it is, I’m kind of vulnerable,” Girardi said of the hit, per the New York Post. “He’s going to try to make a hit. He just hit me in the front of the face, so it wasn’t like it was the side-of-the-head hit or something.

“As soon as I got up, I was fine.”

Pastrnak, who did appear to leave his feet to make the hit, doesn’t have any history with the DoPS, and has never been subjected to supplemental discipline from the department.

His hearing will take place on Friday.

Former Isles goalie Kevin Poulin signs with KHL club

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Goaltender Kevin Poulin #60 of the New York Islanders in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on December 12, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Poulin is leaving the pro hockey scene in North America to sign with the KHL’s Astana Barys.

It’s a one-year deal, per Igor Eronko of Sports-Express.

The former Islanders goalie spent last season with the Stockton Heat of the AHL, where he had a 14-11-3 record with a 2.86 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage in 29 games.

The 26-year-old last played in the NHL during the 2014-15 season. He made one appearance with the Isles that year.

He had a few opportunities with the Islanders, but it was usually the result of players ahead of him on the depth chart getting injured.

Poulin leaves the NHL with a career 18-25-3 record, a 3.07 goals-against-average and a .899 save percentage in 50 games.

He’ll join former NHLers Vitaly Kolesnik and Henrik Karlsson in Astana Barys’ crease. Nigel Dawes, Brandon Bochenski, Martin St. Pierre, Cam Barker and Kevin Dallman are also on the roster.

PHT Morning Skate: Hockey’s spookiest goalie masks

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–Here are some of hockey’s all-time spookiest goalie masks. (Sports Illustrated)

Beau Bennett‘s funny response to his name being left off the Stanley Cup. (BarDown)

Alex Ovechkin made this young fan’s night by giving him one of his sticks. (Sportsnet)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Rangers and Bruins. (Top)

–Everybody remembers Grant Fuhr, Curtis Joseph, Jacques Plante, Tom Barrasso and Sean Burke, but these are the teams you don’t remember them playing for. (The Hockey News)

–Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre honors his late grandmother on the back of his goalie mask. (The Score)

–Former NHL goalie Niklas Svedberg made an incredible stick save in a KHL game: