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Taylor Hall’s early impact on Arizona Coyotes

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In mere hours, Taylor Hall will suit up for his fifth game as a member of the Arizona Coyotes. Hall’s new team has a chance to fatten its Pacific Division lead against the (mostly) rising Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

Don’t blame Hall if he’s still trying to find his rhythm, and footing.

Consider that the New Jersey Devils sat Hall as they ramped up their efforts to trade him, ultimately finding a deal with Arizona. Hall waited a week between games, needing to catch a “red eye” flight to debut for the Coyotes in a win against the Sharks on Dec. 17.

Other factors likely messed with Hall’s equilibrium.

So far, the Coyotes only played one home game (against the Wild on Dec. 19), not that “home” is home yet for Hall, anyway.

While the holiday break provided a crucial opportunity for rest, Hall probably feels like he’s still trying to dance to a strange, unfamiliar beat. Really, these factors only strengthen the logic behind trading for a player sooner rather than later. Ideally, the Coyotes will get Hall fully up to speed long before most other teams make their late “rentals.”

Factoring in all of those caveats underscores how impressive Hall’s first four games have been. Let’s break down his start, going deeper than one goal and two primary assists.

Dec. 17: Coyotes beat Sharks 3-2 (Hall gets first assist)

Using Natural Stat Trick’s handy game logs, you can see that this was the only game so far where Hall was really under water from a shot-share perspective.

Even then, Hall showed why the Coyotes acquired him by combining power and skill to set up Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s game-winning goal:

“He had maybe four hours of sleep, travels cross country, and he hasn’t played in about a week. Not bad for that situation,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet after that game, via NHL.com. “If he plays like that for not having much sleep, imagine what he can do with some real rest.”

Dec. 19: Wild beat Coyotes 8-5 (Another assist)

Hall has avoided the line blender so far, spending the majority of his even-strength time with Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel. If that alignment boosts Kessel and opens up easier matchups for the likes of Clayton Keller, it could be quite the boon for Arizona.

While this marked Hall’s first loss with the Coyotes, he made an impact, firing five SOG and finishing this nice takeaway by Dvorak by setting up Kessel:

 

The Coyotes lost Darcy Kuemper to injury, so it was clearly not a great overall night for Arizona.

Dec. 22: Coyotes beat Red Wings 5-2 (First Hall goal with Arizona)

Despite limited ice time (14:16 TOI), Hall made an impact. He fired four SOG, with his first Coyotes goal coming on a booming shot:

Goodness.

Dec. 23: Predators win against Coyotes 3-2 (First time Hall hasn’t scored a point for Arizona)

Looking at only the simplest stats, this seems like a rough night for Hall specifically. He failed to score a point, and finished with a -2 rating.

Delve deeper and Hall comes across as a positive influence. The Predators dominated possession, but Hall broke even. Hall also showed signs that he could click with Derek Stepan and Vinnie Hinostroza if need be.

***

After Hall’s debut, Tocchet told NHL Now that he didn’t want Hall to get “system’d to death” upon arriving with the Coyotes. If Arizona leans toward a slow trickle instead of a deluge, maybe we’ll see more of the benefits of that osmosis starting with Saturday’s game against the Golden Knights?

Ultimately, it’s already been a pretty strong start for Hall in Arizona.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NCAA on NBCSN: No. 15 Fighting Irish host Alabama-Huntsville

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 college hockey season tonight when the No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-8-1) host the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (1-21-0) at the Compton Family Ice Arena with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can also catch the game online at NBC Sports Live Extra

There’s quite the juxtaposition of circumstances on display in South Bend this weekend. Notre Dame heads into their two-game set with Alabama-Huntsville ranked 15th in the USCHO.com poll and sit eighth in Hockey East. The ranking is nice, but coach Jeff Jackson would certainly like his team to turn things up in the second half.

The Irish are coming off a thrilling loss to Boston College at Frozen Fenway in Boston last week. Having to contain both Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau for a single game is asking a lot and it was Gaudreau who scored the game-winner midway through the third period.

Notre Dame has other issues, however. They have just two wins in their last seven games and one of those was a 5-2 victory against UAH in the Shillelagh Tournament. Losing to BC and UMass-Lowell is one thing, but splitting a weekend set with UMass before winter break doesn’t look so good. Goalie Steven Summerhays has held strong but they’ll need more from T.J. Tynan and Mario Lucia (pictured) if they’re going to storm into the Hockey East playoffs.

Saturday night’s game between these same teams will be streamed on NBC Live Extra on NBCSports.com at 7 p.m. ET.

The Chargers, however, have had a rough go of it in their first season in the WCHA. They have the worst record in college hockey and their lone win came on the road at Bowling Green in overtime. UAH’s top scorer is freshman Matt Salhany with seven points. Their top goal man is sophomore forward Chad Brears with four.

As a team they’ve scored just 22 goals this season. Yes, they’re averaging exactly one goal per game. Ouch.

While goals have been hard to come by, goaltending has been a struggle as well as they split time between a pair of freshmen, Carmine Guerriero and Matt Larose. For first-year coach Mike Corbett, accommodating to life in Alabama has been a struggle. It sure beats having the program being on the brink of being eliminated though.

NHL Draftees

Notre Dame – Forwards: Vince Hinostroza (FR – Blackhawks), T.J. Tynan (SR – Blue Jackets), Austin Wuthrich (JR – Capitals), Bryan Rust (SR – Penguins), Jeff Costello (SR – Senators), Mario Lucia (SO – Wild), Steven Fogarty (SO – Rangers), Thomas DiPauli (SO – Capitals).

Defense: Robbie Russo (JR -Islanders), Stephen Johns (SR – Blackhawks), Kevin Lind (SR – Ducks)

Alabama-Huntsville — None

NCAA on NBCSN: No. 4 Notre Dame hosts Merrimack

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 college hockey season tonight when the No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Merrimack Warriors at the Compton Family Ice Arena with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can also catch the game online at NBC Sports Live Extra

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came out of last weekend with a split against the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers and now they’ll turn their attention to Hockey East conference play when they face Merrimack this weekend.

Both teams are early on in the conference schedule with the Irish being 1-1-0 and the Warriors sitting at 0-2-0. Things haven’t gone as well for Merrimack outside the conference either as they’re 3-5-0 there.

Merrimack started off their Hockey East schedule last weekend being swept by a very tough Providence College team. If they’re going to avoid an even tougher start in conference play, they’ll have a pair of players to count on.

Saturday night’s game between these same teams will be streamed on NBC Live Extra on NBCSports.com at 7 p.m. ET.

Senior forward Mike Collins and junior defenseman Dan Kolomatis have led the way in scoring with Collins leading the team with nine points. Kolomatis’ seven points from the blue line are encouraging, but they need more if they’re going to compete in conference. Freshman forward Chris LeBlanc is an Ottawa Senators draft pick (sixth-round 2013) and is off to a quiet start with a goal and two assists.

Where it counts for the Warriors is how they break things up in goal. Senior Sam Marrotta and junior Rasmus Tirronen have split starts this season with Marrotta having a slight 5-4 edge in games played. Tirronen has slightly better numbers, although his save percentage is a bit better than Marrotta’s. Both guys could see time against the Irish this weekend.

Speaking of the home team, freshman Vince Hinostroza (Chicago) and sophomore Mario Lucia (Minnesota) had strong weekends against the Gophers. Hinostroza had three assists in the two games and Lucia had two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 5-4 loss. Factor in defenseman Stephen Johns’ goal and two assists on the weekend and that makes for a strong performance all around.

Hinostroza’s week was so good he was named Hockey East rookie of the week. That’ll look good on the resume.

Update (12:50 p.m. ET): You can forget all the talk about Hinostroza, he’ll be out with a knee injury.

The Irish will have to hope senior goalie Steven Summerhays can bounce back strong form Saturday’s tough overtime defeat. He played outstanding last Friday stopping 31 shots in the Irish’s 4-1 win, however. This season, however, he’s been quite good (7-2-0 .928 SV% 1.81 GAA). With how Merrimack’s offense has struggled, if the Fighting Irish can solve their two-headed goalie attack, things should turn out well.

NHL Draftees

Notre Dame – Forwards: Vince Hinostrosza (Chicago), T.J. Tynan (Columbus), Austin Wuthrich (Washington), Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh), Jeff Costello (Ottawa), Mario Lucia (Minnesota), Steven Fogarty (NY Rangers), Thomas DiPauli (Washington).

Defense: Robbie Russo (NY Islanders), Stephen Johns (Chicago), Kevin Lind (Anaheim)

Merrimack — Forward: Chris LeBlanc (Ottawa)