GLENDALE – Forward Jordan Szwarz made his season debut with the Coyotes on Tuesday night in Detroit.
The 23-year-old winger, who hadn’t played in an NHL game in 14 months and two days, skated 13:32 in Arizona’s 5-4 overtime win over the Red Wings.
After playing 26 games for the Coyotes in 2013-14, Szwarz started this season playing for the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League. While working to get back to the NHL, Szwarz suffered a knee injury in December that sidelined him for 22 games. Despite missing so much time, Szwarz ranked seventh on the AHL club with 21 points (nine goals/12 assists) upon getting recalled by the Coyotes for the first time this season on Monday.
Returning to the NHL on Tuesday night felt good, he said.
"The speed, I felt, was pretty similar (to the AHL), but the way the puck moves and some of the decision making of the players is a lot different," Szwarz said on Wednesday. "That’s a bit of an adjustment to get used to."
Szwarz notched three goals in those 26 games for the Coyotes last season. With eight games left in this season, he’s eager to make an impact.
"I’m looking at this as an opportunity to show what I can do and really prove myself - that I can be an NHL caliber player," Szwarz said. "I had a good stint here last year. I played 26 games, and I got the confidence up playing in the American league this year. I felt like I’ve been rewarded with an opportunity to show what I can do here. I just want to show that I can be an NHL caliber player for this team in the future."
|Photo by Getty Images. |
Head Coach Dave Tippett said he'd be watching Szwarz closely.
"Szwarz is a good role player, a good third- (or) fourth-line player," Tippett said. "He had a major injury. He missed some time in Portland and has finally got his game up and going. So he's one guy I've wanted to have a look at for awhile."
Szwarz has joined the Coyotes as Portland battles for an AHL playoff spot. As of Wednesday, the Pirates were in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings with 12 games to play. The top eight teams from the conference make the playoffs.
Szwarz said while it’s tough to leave his AHL teammates behind at such a critical time, he’s pleased to be back in the NHL.
"We’ve had some success as of late down there and we’re right in the midst of a playoff spot right now and it’s coming down to the wire," Szwarz said. "But this is an opportunity I’ve been looking forward to all season long, so at the same time I’m very excited to be here."
• Szwarz is wearing sweater No. 21 this season with the Coyotes; last season he wore No. 29.
• Forward Lauri Korpiksoki spent Wednesday nursing his mouth after taking a stick to the face in the third period of Tuesday’s game at Detroit. Asked if Korpikoski would play on Thursday at Buffalo, Tippett said: "We’ll see."
• Tippett said Mike Smith would start in goal vs. Buffalo. Smith is 4-3-2 in 10 games against the Sabres in his career with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
• Coyotes prospects Max Domi (London) and Ryan MacInnis (Kitchener) have been named finalists for the Ontario Hockey League's Most Outstanding Player of the Year award. Meanwhile, prospects Christian Dvorak (London) and Brendan Perlini have been named finalists for the OHL's Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year award. OHL award recipients will be announced periodically throughout the 2015 OHL Playoffs.