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'Yotes Notes: Raanta Returns to Net After Lengthy Absence

Goalie Antti Raanta stopped 26 of 31 shots vs. Buffalo on Thursday in his first game since Oct. 12

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

GLENDALE -- Antti Raanta stopped 26 of 31 shots vs. the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night in his first game back in action after a three-week absence.

Arizona rallied late, but Buffalo won, 5-4, at Gila River Arena.

Raanta played for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury in a game vs. Detroit on Oct. 12.

"Everything felt good," Raanta said. "Of course when you haven't been playing, and we haven't had too many practices, you kind of feel a little bit tired after the game."

Video: Raanta on Return, Loss to Sabre

The Coyotes did not give Raanta much support in his return to the lineup. Buffalo scored its middle three goals thanks to odd-man rushes created by defensive lapses by Arizona. The backbreaker was a short-handed goal scored by the Sabres that capped a two-on-zero rush.

Head Coach Rick Tocchet labeled the lapses "a comedy of errors" and Zac Rinaldo termed them "brain farts."

Max Domi said the Coyotes failed Raanta miserably.

"It's great to have Raanta back," Domi said. "In the room he's a huge presence, and he's a massive part of our team, so it's great to see him. (There's) a lot of confidence in our group just from having him back there. But it doesn't matter what goalie you have back there (or) if you have a brick wall back there, you give them that many two-on-ones (and) the puck is going to end up in the back of your net. We left him hanging out to dry a couple plays there."

Raanta let his teammates down, too. Leading 1-0, Raanta allowed Sabres forward Kyle Okposo to score a deflating goal via a one-timer from the right face-off dot with just 0.9 seconds left in the first period.

"We could have had a 1-0 lead after the first period, but there was 0.9 seconds left still and they got the goal there," Raanta said. "I should have taken that one, and go for the intermission with a 1-0 lead. It's easy to make excuses ... but I should make the save. I couldn't do it and it's 1-1."

• Domi assisted on Oliver Ekman-Larsson's goal in the first period. It was Domi's 100th NHL point in his 154th game. Domi reached the 100-point milestone faster than any other player in Coyotes history.

Video: Domi: 'It's Deja Vu'

• The Coyotes scored first for the 10th time in 14 games this season. Arizona has won just one of those 10 games.

"There are about four or five individuals that have to understand what it takes to win," Tocchet said. "It's my job to get these guys to understand that and obviously I haven't done a good enough job ... We have only had one practice in seven or eight days, and we probably will only have one other practice in the next week ... We are a younger team and we need practice time and we are not getting it. That is not an excuse, but that is reality, and we are going to have to think of other ways, as coaches, to get these guys to understand the importance of how hard it is to win."

Video: Tocchet on Critical Mistakes vs. BUF

• Rinaldo, who was wearing a microphone during the game for the FOX Sports Arizona broadcast, scored his first goal with the Coyotes at 12:11 of the third period to trigger a three-goal rally by Arizona. The goal was Rinaldo's first in the NHL since Nov. 23, 2015. 

• Dakota Mermis made his NHL debut and skated 10:07 in his first game.

Paired with veteran Alex Goligoski, Mermis took one shot on goal and blocked two shots. The 23-year-old rookie defenseman played his debut in front of his parents, Bill and Jolene, who flew to Phoenix from St. Louis on Thursday morning. Mermis' brother and his fiancee also attended the game.

Clayton Keller, whom the NHL recently named its Rookie of the Month for October, failed to notch a point, ending his career-high point streak at seven games. He did lead the team with four shots on goal.

Jason Demers chipped in two assists to extend his point streak to a season-high four games.

Anthony Duclair returned to the lineup after missing the past two games as a healthy scratch. Duclair played 10:49 but did not register a stat on the game's 'Event Summary.'

Niklas Hjalmarsson, who suffered an upper-body injury late in Monday's game at Philadelphia, was placed on the injured-reserve list.

• Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski and Derek Stepan each wore an 'A' vs. Buffalo. Arizona does not have a captain this season. 

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