GLENDALE – When the Coyotes take the ice for Saturday’s three-game homestand finale vs. the St. Louis Blues, their two goalies will be Louis Domingue and Niklas Treutle.
It’s a fascinating tandem considering the latter was signed last summer on July 29, specifically because the former was expected to play in Europe instead of returning to the Coyotes this season. In other words, Treutle was inked to replace Domingue. But Domingue, of course, opted to re-sign with Arizona on Sept. 5, and he and Treutle began the season in the American Hockey League. Both have joined the Coyotes this season because of injuries to Mike Smith and Anders Lindback, the two goalies who started the season Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on Arizona’s depth chart.
Domingue has thrived as the starter since Smith last played on Dec. 8 because of a core muscle injury/surgery. Now, with Lindback out for the season because of an Achilles’ injury, Treutle will be Domingue’s backup for the immediate future.
“When I was in (training) camp here, I had so much fun and it was so nice to be around here,” said Treutle, an undrafted goalie who is playing his first season in North America after seven pro seasons in Germany. “Everything’s so professional, and it’s obviously the place you want to be. I just want to show that I can play in this league and just work hard. I don’t know how the situation here is exactly, but I’m just getting ready to play and I hope one day I get the chance.”
Once the Coyotes recalled Domingue from the Springfield Falcons, their AHL affiliate, Treutle became the No. 1 goalie there. In 26 games he posted a 9-11-5 record with a 2.91 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. In back-to-back games – four days apart in late November – he posted a 41-save shutout at Bridgeport and a 36-save shutout at Hartford.
“The biggest adjustment (to playing in North America) is the smaller ice because the game comes on you so much quicker,” Treutle said. “Guys are driving the net more, and they’re shooting more because they don’t have as much space. The other big adjustment was just how competitive everything is because you have so many guys fighting for spots. There’s no room for days off. You just have to work every day, and every day you have to prove that you’re the guy. So it’s challenging, and it gets the best out of you.”
|Niklas Treutle. Photo by Norm Hall. |
He added, “I was working hard all year (in the AHL) and I got the call (to the NHL) and I am happy about it. Now I just want to make sure the coaches see I’m ready to play and I prepare good for games.”
Hardcore hockey fans may remember Treutle from his impressive performance at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo. Playing for Germany, as part of a goaltending duo with Washington Capitals backup Phillipp Grubauer, Treutle posted a .930 save percentage – the third best among all goalies.
It was there that Treutle, who decided to become a goalie in Nuremberg, Germany at age six because he liked the gear and the mask, became hooked on the smaller ice surface and began thinking seriously about playing in the NHL some day.
Treutle, 24, credits goalie coaches in Germany for helping him develop professional skills. He said they provided videos of NHL goalies for him to watch, which he did for hours at a time.
“That helped me a lot and that’s when I started to put up good numbers,” said Treutle, who lists Martin Brodeur among the goalies he most enjoyed watching.
Treutle is one of three German players within the Coyotes organization. Forward Matthias Plachta was his teammate in the AHL and forward Tobias Rieder, whom, like Plachta, played with Treutle at the 2011 World Junior Championship, was waiting for him when he arrived in the NHL this week.
“I’m really happy for him,” Rieder said. “He proved himself in the American league this year and he deserves to be here. It’s too bad we have two injured goalies but it’s good for him to get a chance to play in this league. Plus it’s fun to talk German with him every once in a while.”
It’s unclear when, or even if, Head Coach Dave Tippett will turn to Treutle to play his first official game with the Coyotes. He played part of a preseason game on Sept. 22 at the Los Angeles Kings and stopped 10 of 11 shots faced, and he also stopped 15 of 16 shots in two periods of work during a rookie camp game vs. LA on Sept. 16.
“He’s been solid and he’s played more than anticipated down there (in the AHL) with Louis getting called up here,” Tippett said. “He works awfully hard. He impressed players at camp with his work ethic. He’s learning the North American game down there and he’s played enough games that if we have to use him we can use him.”