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Smith tears into Coyotes after ‘blah’ performance in Edmonton

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Last night in Edmonton, the Arizona Coyotes did what they normally do.

They lost.

But unlike previous losses this season, this one felt different. And afterwards, their veteran goalie really let them have it.

“You could feel it on the ice,” Mike Smith said after the 3-1 defeat, per Reuters. “We were just playing, and it was blah. It was blah. And you can’t expect to play like that and compete against a really good hockey team. That’s what we did tonight. We have to learn from it. Sooner or later, this organization’s got to move forward and not continue to have games like this.”

At 13-24-6, the Coyotes are already out of the playoff race. It’s estimated they’d have to go in the neighborhood of 26-7-6 to qualify for the postseason, and that just isn’t going to happen.

Smith wasn’t alone in lambasting his team last night. The head coach, Dave Tippett, said it was “as poor as we’ve played” in the last month.

Suffice to say, it has been a disappointing season for the Coyotes. Though outside expectations were not particularly high for this group, they were much higher internally.

“Our team is looking to try and make the playoffs this year,” forward Max Domi said back in October. “We’re looking forward to the challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun. The new faces are going to help us out a lot and some guys coming back are going to do the same things they did last year and more.”

Alas, the “new faces” have not been able to make the Coyotes competitive. Alex Goligoski was the big offseason addition. But the 31-year-old defenseman got off to a frustrating start with his new team, and though things have improved slightly since, the jury’s still out on the decision to give him a five-year contract worth $27.375 million.

In fact, Tippett singled out Goligoski and Michael Stone for this poorly timed line change that led to the Oilers’ first goal:

With pending unrestricted free agents in Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Ryan White, and Stone, the Coyotes should be an interesting team to watch as the trade deadline approaches.

That being said, this is not an organization that needs more prospects, more draft picks. This is an organization that needs to start turning the corner.

“It’s a privilege to play in this league and put the Coyotes sweater on,” said an exasperated Smith. “I don’t know, I can’t explain it. I can talk for myself, and know that every game I go into I want to give myself the best chance to play at my best. And I can’t speak for anyone else, but we’ve got too many guys who aren’t doing enough to push this thing along.”

Related: Keller, Strome to meet in gold-medal game at World Juniors 

Stars end losing streak in typically sloppy fashion; Kopitar breaks a record

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Win or lose, it’s rarely been easy for the Dallas Stars this season. It’s only fitting that they stumbled quite a bit before ending their latest losing streak.

The Stars carried a 3-1 lead into the third period, and it didn’t take long for things to get rocky in the final frame.

Dustin Brown made it 3-2 a little more than two minutes into the third period, sparking a 3-1 run by the Kings through about three minutes of action. Just like that, it was 4-4.

Jiri Hudler then chose a great time to score his first goal with the Stars, as it was the eventual game-winner for the Stars. Patrick Sharp ultimately added one more goal to lock up a 6-4 win for the Stars.

Again, it wasn’t pretty. You know it’s a flawed win – and a zany game – when both goalies make an appearance (and injuries weren’t involved).

And the Stars certainly have some work to do.

Kopitar continues night of milestones

In other news, Anze Kopitar scored his 247th goal – all with the Kings – to pass Wayne Gretzky on the team’s all-time goals list:

Tonight’s other milestones

Roberto Luongo goes alone for fifth all-time in goalie wins.

Alex Ovechkin ties Maurice Richard for goals, hit 999 points.

Coyotes lose all five games of ’embarrassing’ homestand

The Arizona Coyotes lost all five games of their homestand, and boy did they beat themselves up about it.

“Having a five-game homestand and not even getting a point is just embarrassing and not acceptable,” winger Anthony Duclair told reporters after last night’s 6-3 loss to the Rangers. “It’s got to stop.”

It was actually the Coyotes sixth straight loss overall. They’re now 11-20-5 on the season, with any hope of making the playoffs all but officially gone.

It has not helped that one of Arizona’s most dangerous players, Max Domi (hand), has not played since Dec. 8. And the loss of veteran forward Brad Richardson (broken leg) in mid-November also hurt.

But discipline is one thing that can be controlled, and the Coyotes put themselves shorthanded seven times against the Rangers, who scored four times on the power play.

“The leadership’s gotta be better,” veteran center Martin Hanzal said, per The Arizona Republic. “It starts with myself. For example, tonight I took two stupid penalties and it cost us the game. So the leadership’s gotta be better.”

Only the Winnipeg Jets (32) have surrendered more power-play goals than the Coyotes (31) have this season.

Granted, when a team has possession of the puck as little as the Coyotes do, it’s bound to run into penalty trouble. Arizona is dead last in score-adjusted Corsi. They managed just 21 shots last night, compared to the Rangers’ 32.

Now twelve points back of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Coyotes would need to go in the neighborhood of 28-12-6 to give themselves a shot at making the playoffs.

Given that’s extremely unlikely to happen, their last 46 games could be a serious slog.

Perhaps getting on the road will help. They open a three-game trip Saturday in Calgary, followed by visits to Vancouver and Anaheim.

Related: The Coyotes are worth watching… for potential trades

Pre-game reading: On Daniel Alfredsson, who used to love him some Pop-Tarts

— Up top, rumor has it that Bruins head coach Claude Julien is on the hot seat, but Darren Dreger is hearing otherwise. Boston, to be sure, is enduring a frustrating season, but the team’s underlying stats are actually quite encouraging. That being said, if the B’s miss the playoffs again, Julien could be out.

— The Ottawa Senators will raise Daniel Alfredsson’s No. 11 to the rafters tonight at Canadian Tire Centre. TSN’s James Duthie remembers the first time he met Alfredsson, all the way back in 1995, when the guy they call “Alfie” was an NHL rookie. “Television being television, we needed to get video of the kid doing something — anything — a rookie on his own in a new country would have to do. So we went to the grocery store in the adjacent building to shoot Alfredsson loading his cart with the nutritional necessities of a young hockey player. Those included: Pop-Tarts and, err, well that was actually it. Just a lot of Pop-Tarts.” (TSN)

Artemi Panarin on his two-year extension with the Chicago Blackhawks: “Chicago gave me a chance to play at the very high level. I like everything about the team and the environment here. You can’t earn all the money in the world.” Granted, the ‘Hawks are still in a cap crunch, but Panarin’s extension at least buys them some time to shed salary. Maybe they can unload Marcus Kruger on Vegas, which will need to get to the cap floor somehow. The real key for the ‘Hawks will be for their rookies to keep improving. So far this season, they’ve been too reliant on their stars for scoring. And when its comes to the playoffs, it’s a lot easier to stop a two-line team than a three- or four-line team. (Chicago Tribune)

— Speaking of four-line teams, here’s a good, analytical piece on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have a guy with 14 goals, Sam Gagner, on their fourth line. “Columbus has kept Gagner down as the 11th-most used forward on the team at even strength, limiting his defensive exposure by having him play against weaker competition for shorter stretches of time. However, when the team goes on the power play, he’s been called upon far more frequently, seeing his usage spike all of the way up to third.” (Sportsnet)

— A story about a memorabilia collector in Toronto whose “1,000-square-foot basement, in a stately three-story home in the Forest Hill neighborhood, houses what is believed to be the world’s largest collection of Toronto Maple Leafs artifacts.” In said basement, “one will find more than 2,000 pieces, including game-worn sweaters from as far back as the 1930s, but also photographs, pucks, sticks, contracts, documents and the original door to the dressing room at the old Maple Leaf Gardens, signed in blue ink by about 60 former Leafs.” (New York Times)

— For the first time in a long time, there are no Newfoundlanders playing regularly in the NHL. And you know what? That’s really too bad. “Look, if you make the NHL from Ontario or Quebec or B.C., it is just not the same impact as a kid from Newfoundland and Labrador making it, because everybody from Newfoundland and Labrador, no matter if they like hockey or not, will follow that kid.” The good news? A couple of kids from St. John’s were drafted in June, one by the Blackhawks, another by the Blues. (National Post)

Enjoy the games!

Returns of Hansen, Tanev have been key for Canucks

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The Vancouver Canucks could not afford to have another injury-filled season. They just aren’t deep enough to lose key players for extended periods.

And yet, another injury-filled season is exactly what they’ve had. According to the website Man-Games Lost, Vancouver’s been the NHL’s fifth-most impacted team by injuries to their skaters, after Winnipeg, Detroit, Buffalo, and Boston.

The Canucks have only just started to get healthy again. First-line winger Jannik Hansen returned Dec. 11 after missing 16 games with a fractured rib. Top-pairing defenseman Chris Tanev returned Dec. 16; he’s missed 23 games in all with an ankle injury.

In a related story, with last night’s 4-1 win over Winnipeg, the Canucks improved to 2-0-1 in the three games that both Hansen and Tanev have been back. The former has three goals in those three games; the latter is plus-3 with two assists.

“Jannik brings a lot of speed to our line and gives us a lot more room to work down low and off the rush,” said Henrik Sedin, per the Canadian Press. “He’s done a great job since he’s been back.”

The Canucks still have injuries. Defensemen Alex Edler, Erik Gudbranson and Philip Larsen are all out with various ailments. Up front, winger Derek Dorsett is done for the season after undergoing neck surgery.

But Edler (broken finger) should be back shortly after the Christmas break, and that should provide a boost similar in strength to the returns of Hansen and Tanev. They may also, finally, get forward Anton Rodin into the lineup. He’s yet to play for them due to a lingering knee injury, but he’s been down in the AHL on a conditioning stint, and the reviews have been good.

The Canucks (14-16-3) could use all the boosts they can get. They’re currently four points back of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. While that doesn’t sound like much of a deficit, with all the three-point games in the NHL, it’s a considerable amount of ground to make up.

In fact, according to the website Sports Club Stats, the Canucks will need to go in the neighborhood of 26-17-6 in their remaining games to get into the playoffs.

Is that likely to happen? No, probably not.

But if they can avoid further injuries, it’s at least in the realm of possible.

Related: The Canucks have a big decision to make with Erik Gudbranson