Rookie Anthony Duclair, who has scored five goals in his first six games with the Coyotes, can’t wait to play Thursday’s game at Madison Square Garden.
That’s because it will be the first game for Duclair against the New York Rangers, the team that drafted him 80th overall in 2013 and then traded him to Arizona last March in a deal to acquire defenseman Keith Yandle.
Duclair scored one goal in 18 games for the Rangers last season before the trade.
“It’s going to be special for sure,” Duclair said after Wednesday’s practice. “I wasn’t there for long, but I loved my time there and I’m looking forward to that game tomorrow night.”
With five goals, Duclair trailed only Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn (six) for most goals in the League heading into Wednesday’s games.
Head Coach Dave Tippett said although the sample size is small, Duclair has played well.
“We gave up a very good player in Keith Yandle and we’re expecting a good return,” Tippett said. “Duclair, when we traded for him, was a young, good prospect, but he’s turned into a good NHL player. It’s still early but he’s doing a lot of things that we’re looking for.”
Asked what the ceiling was for the 20-year-old winger, Tippett said:
“We’ll have to see … Everybody sees the goal scoring and the offense ability, but there’s still lots to learn in the game for him. We’ll continue to try to make him as good a player as he can be.”
Duclair credits the team’s veterans for helping him and fellow rookie Max Domi feel comfortable in the NHL.
“The older guys here have done a great job of easing in the younger guys,” Duclair said. “It’s gelling well so far as a team and we want to keep things rolling.”
► Forward Joe Vitale
will be sidelined for approximately four weeks because of a fractured orbital bone he suffered during a fight with Boston’s Kevan Miller during Saturday’s game at Gila River Arena.
Vitale and Miller swapped punches during the second period. Vitale left the game after the fight and did not return, nor did he accompany the team on its five-game trip vs. Eastern Conference teams.
“He’ll be out for awhile,” General Manager Don Maloney told SiriusXM NHL Network on Wednesday. “He’s all will and desire and heart. Unfortunately, he’s on the sidelines (because he) probably walked into something maybe he shouldn’t have walked into, but that’s the game and sport. But he’ll be back. It may take a number of weeks but at some point in the season he’ll be back with us.”
Vitale was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season before cracking the lineup on Saturday in place of injured forward Jordan Martinook.
► Center Martin Hanzal is slated to play in his 500th NHL game on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
The Coyotes drafted Hanzal, 28, with the 17th overall pick in 2005 and he has played all of his NHL games with the team. He made his NHL debut on Oct. 4, 2007.
“I feel like I’m getting old, but it’s definitely a great milestone for me, especially (playing) at MSG,” Hanzal said. “It’s going to be fun so I’ll enjoy it for sure.”