GLENDALE - The sky isn't falling.
That's the message Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet is sending to his players as they head into the sixth game of the season at Dallas on Tuesday night winless at 0-4-1.
"Don't panic," Tocchet said he told the group. "You've got to trust what you're doing out there and you've got to trust yourself."
Arizona is the only team in the NHL yet to win a game, but Tocchet remains confident all is not lost after five games. He's encouraged by the team's play overall, despite some shaky defense/goaltending in spots.
"Everything is magnified because it's the beginning of the season," Tocchet said. "All of a sudden a team's 3-1 to start (the season) and they're going to win the Stanley Cup. It's still bad. Don't get me wrong. We're 0-4-1 in five games. But everything's magnified now. That's something we've got to be careful of as a group - that we don't squeeze our sticks."
Tocchet said he liked Monday's practice and he believes a day off on Sunday served the team well. He also said it's important to keep in mind the roster features a new coaching staff, a new system and six new veteran players: Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers, Nick Cousins, and Adam Clendening. It will take time, he said, for this team to gel and develop chemistry.
"I'm excited," Tocchet said before the Coyotes left Arizona for Dallas on Monday. "We're going into a tough building and Dallas is a really good team. It's exciting for me to see how they respond and where we're going to be. It's not the end all, do all, but it will tell us some stuff about how this team's reacting to our second period vs. Boston. That was not good."
The Coyotes gave up three goals to Boston in the middle frame at home on Saturday en route to a 6-2 loss.
In response, Tocchet said he may tweak the manner in which he and his staff help the players prepare. For example, he hinted there may be more individual meetings with players.
Tocchet also said he expects team leaders - there are five alternate captains - to step up and guide the Coyotes out of the early-season slump.
"Your leadership group has to be the heartbeat, too," Tocchet said. "When things are down, they've got to be sure they're very positive and that they're leading the charge … and the young guys have got to take responsibility. They can't just say that they're 'young guys' so they don't have to say anything or they can be quiet. They have to take some ownership, too; don't be afraid to speak out or be afraid to lead. I don't care if you're 20 or 32, don't be afraid of it."
Raanta remains sidelined because of a lower-body injury. He did not accompany the team to Dallas. That means either Louis Domingue or rookie Adin Hill will start in goal vs. the Stars. Fans shouldn't be too surprised if it's Hill, recalled from the American Hockey League on Monday after a shutout on Saturday, who starts in net.
"He could play," Tocchet said. "He's not here just to practice."
The Coyotes drafted Hill 76th overall in 2015. He dressed for one game with Arizona last season at Dallas, ironically, but did not get off the bench.
Hill practiced with the team on Monday and said he's ready to play in Dallas if needed.
"I thought my camp went really well," Hill said. "At the rookie camp, in the little tournament, I obviously got off to a tough start, but I thought after that I kept getting better every day. I was feeling better every day, seeing the puck better, tracking better, I felt like my movement was better, and I feel like I've carried that momentum into the season."