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'Yotes Notes: Rinaldo Getting Long Look at Camp

Forward Zac Rinaldo is working hard to make it back to the NHL

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

GLENDALE - The Coyotes returned to Gila River Arena on Wednesday for an intense 75-minute practice after a day off on Tuesday.

Twenty-nine players remain on the training camp roster, which needs to be trimmed to 23 by Oct. 3.

With goaltenders and defense pretty much set, there's plenty of conversation surrounding which forwards still at camp will be with the team on Opening Night in Anaheim. Dylan Strome, Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer and Mario Kempe all remain at camp and are competing for spots as this year's crop of "bubble players."

So is forward Zac Rinaldo, who, if he makes the team, must first serve a five-game NHL suspension for an illegal hit to the head he delivered to Tampa Bay's Cedric Paquette on Feb. 28, 2016.  

"I came in really humble, thankful for the opportunity," said Rinaldo, who signed as a free agent this off-season after playing 275 NHL games for Philadelphia and Boston. "I've just come here to work everyday. That's all I can do, just make sure I'm at my best physically and mentally. I think I've done a good job so far. Camp's not over, the season hasn't even started yet, so I'm not looking too far ahead. "

Rinaldo hasn't played in the NHL since 2015-16 with the Bruins. And last season he played just 29 games in the American Hockey League. Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet said it's easy to see Rinaldo has energy in reserve. 

"He's a really good team guy and he can skate," Tocchet said. "I like him. We haven't made a decision on him yet, but he's a guy that's been around. He's a well-liked guy in the locker room and he makes people accountable. He's done a nice job …  I kind of like his energy and the way he skates." 

Rinaldo, whom Philadelphia drafted 178th overall in 2008, is eager to return to the NHL. He's notched 27 points and 644 penalty minutes in the League. 

"There's not one day I didn't think about it," Rinaldo said about perhaps returning to the NHL. "This is where I want to be. I love this game, and I know what this organization wants and I'm here to bring that."

Tocchet said should Rinaldo make the team it wouldn't be simply to serve as an old-fashioned team enforcer. 

"I don't think you can carry guys that play two minutes a game," Tocchet said. "We're not going to do that here. So, if Zac's here, he's going to play. I don't know how much he's going to play, but you have to play your roster, you've got to play your bench. I don't think you can sit a guy on the bench to intimidate anymore. I think you have to have a guy that intimidates by speed, whether he's a good penalty killer or whether he finishes his checks. That's how you intimidate nowadays, with those types of players."

Rinaldo has skated in two preseason games with the Coyotes, and he wore an 'A' in the exhibition game vs. Calgary. He said he's enjoyed playing for Tocchet.

"He's a hard-nosed coach and I'm a hard-nosed player, so we kind of go hand in hand," Rinaldo said. "He communicates with everybody so I have nothing but good things to say about him."

Video: Rinaldo: 'I'm Here to Work Hard'

• The Coyotes will play the fifth of their six preseason games on Thursday vs. the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. The game can be viewed on NHL Network starting at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time.

• Tocchet said defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who suffered a lower-body injury in last Saturday's preseason game vs. San Jose, could skate again as soon as Thursday.

"I talked to him today and he's in good spirits," Tocchet said. "He feels good and maybe (will) skate tomorrow. He's doing well."

• Goalie Antti Raanta did not practice on Wednesday because of minor lower-body issues, according to Tocchet. 

Raanta is close to returning to practice, but is not expected to play in Thursday's preseason game at Los Angeles.

• Goalie Louis Domingue, who left Monday's preseason game in Tucson vs. Anaheim after being struck in the left ear by a shot, is fine. Domingue practiced Wednesday and likely will play in the next preseason game.

Video: Domingue: 'I'm confident about my game'

 

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