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'Yotes Notes: Keller Makes NHL Debut in Hometown

Forward Clayton Keller grew up in St. Louis suburb

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

First-round draft pick Clayton Keller made his NHL debut on Monday night when he and the Coyotes played the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. 

Keller, whom Arizona selected seventh overall at last year's NHL Draft, skated 14:09 in his first game. 

St. Louis won 4-1.

Keller, 18, grew up in Swansea, Ill., a suburb less than 20 miles from St. Louis. His parents, his brother and dozens of other family members and friends attended Monday's game and heard his name announced in Arizona's starting lineup.

"It was a really special moment getting the start," Keller said. "It was something that I'll remember forever. You only have one first NHL game so it was pretty cool. It was really special to have the first one here ... The first game, I just tried to battle every time that I could and never stop moving. I think the more games that I play the more comfortable I'll get ... It's a lot different than college. It's way faster, but I'll get used to it."

Keller's experience began when teammates, per tradition, made the rookie skate a few warmup laps by himself. 

Video: ARI@STL: Keller takes a solo lap before debut

Just before the game began, Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who leads the Western Conference with 35 goals, approached Keller and tapped him with his stick to welcome him into the League.

"He's a star player, it's really special for him to do that," Keller said.

Monday's game was Keller's third in the past four days. On Friday and Saturday, he played for Boston University in the NCAA Tournament. The Terriers were eliminated on Saturday, and Keller opted to turn pro on Sunday. On Monday, he played left wing on Arizona's third line with center Alexander Burmistrov and right wing Christian Fischer.

"I thought our line didn't play too bad out there," Keller said. "It was good. We just wanted to get pucks deep and play simple and I think we just tried to do that all game."

Video: Clayton Keller discusses making his NHL debut Monday

Head Coach Dave Tippett said Keller was "solid" in his first game.

"He looks like a good player," Tippett said. "He's got good skill and he's certainly not worried about getting into any confrontations. He plays hard along the wall. He's not a big guy but he competes hard. He looks like a hockey player. He's got great hockey sense. You watch how he manages a game between line changes, just managing the puck, it was a good start for him."

Video: Dave Tippett discusses Coyotes' 4-1 loss at Blues

Nine players have made their NHL debuts playing for the Coyotes this season.

• Rookie Anthony DeAngelo scored Arizona's lone goal on Monday at 1:01 of the third period. It was his fifth goal of the season in his 34th game. Only six rookie defensemen - including teammate Jakob Chychrun with seven - have scored more goals than DeAngelo, and all six of them have played at least 63 games.

• Goalie Mike Smith made 24 saves in the loss, his sixth in a row. The Coyotes have scored a total of four goals in his past five starts. 

• Burmistrov returned to the lineup for the first time since being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher after absorbing a nasty hit vs. Boston on Feb. 28. 

Burmistrov, who doubted if he'd play again this season, skated 17:05 and won six of nine face-offs.

"I'm happy," Burmistrov said after the game. "I've been smiling the whole day today. It's nice to be back with the boys and to stop hearing from the boys 'How's your vacation going?'" 

Reporters asked Burmistrov how he approached playing on Keller's line.

"(I) tried to give him more passes," Burmistrov said. "Get him the puck to make sure he feels more comfortable out there because if you're that kind of player, if he's playing without the puck he's going to get frustrated. So I needed to give him the puck ... I love playing with those two young guys. They're special guys. I think it's going to be a good few more games here."

Video: Alex Burmistrov discusses Monday's loss at Blues

• Defenseman Luke Schenn led all players with nine hits.

• Rookie Brendan Perlini missed approximately eight minutes of game time spread over two periods after being hit in the face by the stick of Blues defenseman Robert Burtuzzo late in the second period. No penalty was called on the play, but Perlini needed minor medical attention in the dressing room.

• Captain Shane Doan missed his sixth consecutive game because of a lower-body injury.

• The Coyotes will play the Blues again on Wednesday night at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Arizona will attempt to end a 10-game losing streak vs. St. Louis that night. They haven't beaten the Blues since Nov. 12, 2013.

 

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