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'Yotes Notes: Ekman-Larsson's Injury Not Serious

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson does not have structural damage in his knee

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

GLENDALE - The Coyotes received positive news on Sunday when medical tests revealed no structural damage in defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson's injured left knee. He did not practice Sunday, but is considered day-to-day.

Ekman-Larsson suffered the injury early in overtime of Saturday's preseason game vs. San Jose at Gila River Arena.

"We dodged a bullet on this one," Head Coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's a big part of our team. It's nice to know he's not going to be out long ... There's no point in rushing him back, but if he can play, he's going to play (in the preseason)."

Tocchet said he has no idea when Ekman-Larsson might skate again. The Coyotes have three preseason games left on their schedule and all will be played this week - on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. The regular season begins Oct. 5.

• Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson made his preseason debut for the Coyotes on Saturday and quietly led the team in ice time by skating 25:10.

It will likely be a sign of things to come as the three-time Stanley Cup champion helps Ekman-Larsson anchor the team's defensive corps.

"I'm just trying to bring consistency every single shift, game, night, and trying to be a guy the team can trust in every single defensive situation," Hjalmarsson said at the start of training camp. "I'll just keep playing the way I've been doing it. I'm not going to try to change the way I play just because I'm on a new team. I'm going to play the same style I did in Chicago and just try to do it even better here."

The Coyotes acquired Hjalmarsson via a trade with the Blackhawks in June. The 30-year-old Swede boasts a resume that includes 128 games played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's a great challenge," Hjalmarsson said of coming to the Coyotes, a team that hasn't reached the post-season since 2012. "It's a really young team and there's a lot of talent. It will be interesting to see how we shape up during camp and what kind of team we're going to be during the season. I'm excited. I truly am. I don't know the players too well, so it's going to be fun just to see what type of players they are, playing with them now everyday. I am looking forward to the process."

Hjalmarsson took three shots, delivered two hits and blocked a shot in Saturday's game vs. San Jose. As an NHLer, he has blocked 1,484 shots, including a career-high 181 last season.

"It's nothing that I think about at all going into games," Hjalmarsson said. "It's not like I think I have to block four or five shots. It's just a situation that comes in the games and desperation. You don't want to be on the ice when the other team scores, and I'll do anything I can to try to prevent that."

• Center Derek Stepan had a busy weekend with the birth of his daughter on Friday and his debut, albeit a preseason debut, with the Coyotes.

Stepan has played 515 NHL games, but he played all of those for the New York Rangers.

After Saturday's game vs. San Jose, Stepan was asked if it felt strange playing an NHL game for a new team.

"It really didn't," Stepan said with a smile. "Like I've been saying all through training camp, I'm trying to wedge myself into this group, right in the middle of it. I'm not going to hold back. I didn't feel out of place in a Coyotes jersey, that's for sure."

• Forward Clayton Keller notched five points (two goals, three assists) in his first two preseason games and leads the team in that category. 

"I really like him," Tocchet said. "He's got a swagger and he's good positionally ... He gets what we're trying to do, defensively and offensively. He's really absorbed a lot of stuff that I'm telling him. I want to play him and he wants to be out there. He's been a real positive in this camp for me, for sure."

Meanwhile, defenseman Adam Clendening has chipped in three assists in two preseason games for the Coyotes, his sixth NHL team.

"I'm just going to play my game and bring the attributes that I consider are my strengths to the table and hopefully that fits into what we need on Opening Night," Clendening said recently.

Arizona signed Clendening to a one-year contract on July 1. He's a right-handed defenseman who likes to contribute offensively. He produced a career-high 11 points in 31 games last season with the New York Rangers.

"I think you'll see us play at a fast pace and for me, personally, I love it," Clendening said. "I love moving the puck quickly and joining the rush ... I think this style of game fits me very well."

 • Forward Tobias Rieder, who has yet to appear in a preseason game, on Sunday was medically cleared to play. 

Rieder suffered an ankle injury playing for host Germany at the 2017 IIHF World Championship in May. He's been practicing with teammates throughout camp, and is expected to be in the lineup for Monday's preseason game vs. Anaheim in Tucson.

"It's always disappointing getting hurt, especially at the World Championship in your home country," Rieder said. "I'm feeling really good now. I have no problems on the ice. I'm just slowly getting back into contact. It feels all good. I should be ready for the start of the season."

Like his teammates, Rieder is excited to play Tocchet's up-tempo style of hockey.

"We're really young and we have lots of fast skaters," Rieder said. "Watching and being in the practices, obviously they are high-paced practices. He wants everything with speed. We've got to be fast all the time and I think it suits our team. It's an exciting type of game to play."

Video: Rieder on Health, Goals for 2017-18



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