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'Yotes Notes: Ekman-Larsson Played with 'Heavy Heart'

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson's mom recently lost lengthy battle with cancer

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

The Coyotes played Tuesday's game at Dallas, a 3-2 loss in overtime, without defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who left the team for the rest of the season on Monday because of the death of his mother.

"When she passed away a few weeks ago, it was a struggle for him," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "I give him a ton of credit. He was a true professional trying to get through it. But now, this week is the funeral, so he left to go home (to Sweden)."

Ekman-Larsson's mother, Annika, battled cancer for some time, but Tippett said she and Ekman-Larsson's father encouraged their son to stay with the team and keep playing. He skated in all 79 games the Coyotes played before Tuesday.

"He was playing with a heavy heart," Tippett said.

The Coyotes supported Ekman-Larsson's decision to leave.

"Family first, all the time," Tippett said. "We have to recognize that it's a game and it's our job, and everybody is certainly committed to the fullest, but family comes first. I've always had that philosophy as a coach."

Ekman-Larrson's teammates will miss their friend and will be thinking of him during this challenging time.

"What he's going through right now is difficult for everybody in his family and for him and for anyone that knows him," captain Shane Doan said. "Our thoughts and our prayers are with him and his family."

• Goalie Mike Smith played in his 311th game with the Coyotes on Tuesday, tying Bob Essensa for most games played by a goalie in franchise history.

• Rookie Christian Dvorak scored his 15th goal of the season at 17:24 of the first period to get Arizona back into a game it trailed 2-0.

• Forward Anthony Duclair tied the score at 2 when he netted his fifth goal of the season at 15:33 of the third period. The goal was Duclair's second in two games after he hadn't scored since Dec. 29.

"He's got to have something positive come out of the year," Tippett said. "One of the things he needs to bring to our team is some scoring, so it's good to see him get on the board a couple of times. Hopefully he can continue that here, finish out the year strong."

Max Domi assisted on Duclair''s goal on Tuesday, and has assisted on 13 of Duclair's 25 career goals with the Coyotes.

"We have a lot of fun out there together," Domi said. "It's kind of one of those things where you get excited to get on the ice when you're playing with a guy like that and that you have so much chemistry with and, obviously, we're pretty close off the ice as well, so that goes a long way. He's just trying to get his touch again. He's been playing great all year, but sometimes the puck doesn't go in for him, so it's nice to see him get rewarded now. Hopefully we can take that confidence and go into next year with the same mentality."

Video: Max Domi discusses Coyotes' OT loss at Stars

• Both goals that Dallas scored in regulation were set up by turnovers in front of Smith by rookie defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

"Unacceptable plays," DeAngelo said. "The second one was kind of (I) just lost it, but the first one, I can't make that play. I feel like the loss was on me tonight ... It was nice that we came back and had a chance to win in overtime, but I don't know. (It's a) different story if I don't make those plays."

Video: Anthony DeAngelo discusses Coyotes' OT loss at Stars

Despite his early miscues, Tippett did not staple DeAngelo to the bench; he skated 18:12, including 3:06 on the power play.

"You want to see how he rebounds," Tippett said. "He's a young player. There's going to be mistakes like that with young players. You've just got to find a way to get over them. He's a real competitive guy. He competed hard, but some of those mistakes he's got to learn from ... We're at a point in our organization where we know we have to go with these young guys. Every chance they get to grow and become better players, that's what we have to do. We're pushing them hard, our veterans have done a nice job of pushing them also."

• Forward Jamie McGinn returned to the lineup after missing three games following the death of a family member. McGinn played 14:18, took one shot on goal and delivered one hit.

• The Coyotes played without Doan and forward Radim Vrbata. Both were sidelined because of a lower-body injury and are considered day-to-day.

"Hopefully they can play on Thursday (vs. Vancouver), but we'll see," Tippett said.

With Doan, Vrbata and Ekman-Larsson absent from the lineup, the Coyotes played minus their captain and both alternate captains. Because all three were missing, McGinn and defensemen Alex Goligoski and Luke Schenn all wore an 'A' on their sweater in Tuesday's game.

• Rookie Clayton Keller skated 10:54 in his third NHL game and assisted on Dvorak's goal for his second NHL point.

"He's a good little player, but he's really, really young," Tippett said. "The first couple of games he played against St. Louis. St. Louis is a big, heavy team, but he played all right. He got some puck touches tonight. You can tell he's high skill, high intelligence, but we'll continue to feel him out here a little bit at the end."

Video: Dave Tippett discusses Coyotes' OT loss at Stars

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