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'Yotes Notes: Tocchet Seeks 'Infectious' Energy from Kempe

Forward Mario Kempe is expected to make his NHL debut on Tuesday at Vegas

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

LAS VEGAS - Head Coach Rick Tocchet will be looking for Mario Kempe to skate with energy as he plays his NHL debut on Tuesday vs. the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

The Coyotes recalled the 29-yeard-old forward from the American Hockey League on Monday after starting the 2017-18 season with a 0-1-1 record.

"He's an energy guy and we need energy guys right now," Tocchet said. "We need energy guys that are going to stop on pucks and who are going to keep pucks alive. He's on the bench, you call his number, you know he's going to buzz around. We need that. That's infectious."

Kempe signed a two-way contract with the Coyotes over the summer after playing the past three seasons in the KHL. He left Europe for a chance to play in the NHL, like his younger brother Adrian, who skates for the Los Angeles Kings.

"It feels great," Kempe said after skating on a line with Christian Dvorak and Anthony Duclair at Monday's practice in Glendale. "This is what you strive for, to be up (in the NHL) and to play here. I'm excited."

Kempe was the last player cut from the training camp roster, but the first recalled from the AHL.

"I was disappointed, but I understood it," Kempe said of his demotion. "I knew what the deal was when I signed a two-way deal. I knew it could happen. You've just got to be professional and keep working hard and hopefully the chance will come back to you to go up. It did and I'm very happy."

Mario and Adrian Kempe speak daily. Mario said Adrian was the first person he called and told about his promotion, but he didn't ask his kid brother for any advice.

"I'm 29 years old," Kempe said with a smile. "I know what I'm going to do out there."

Kempe notched three points in four preseason games, and a goal and two assists for Tucson (AHL) in its season opener on Saturday. Point production, however, is not his only goal.

"We have a lot of players that are good goal scorers here," Kempe said. "I'll just try to do my best for us to win the game. If that's me scoring a goal or if that's me hitting a guy, (we'll see). We all want to win in here. Who scores the goals doesn't matter. I'll just try to play with energy and, of course, if I get the scoring chances I'll try to score."

• To make room for Kempe on the roster, the Coyotes assigned forward Dylan Strome to the AHL so he could play more minutes and "develop properly," Tocchet said.

"I don't think we have to be scared of that," Tocchet said. "Let him go down and play, let him run the power play and play a lot of minutes … I'm sure he's disappointed, but it's just all part of the process."

Tocchet said there is no timeline set for Strome's return to the NHL.

"I don't think he was horrible," Tocchet said. "He's just got to get a little quicker into situations, a little quicker thinking. He's a young kid. There's some learning curves. He had a nice camp for us. He's made some strides. I just think he has to play a little bit more in these situations. 'Ryno' (Mike Van Ryn), down in the minors, is a good coach. He'll teach him well. Maybe, when there's a right time, we'll get him back up. But we just want to make sure what's best for Dylan right now." 

He added: "He's definitely an NHL player, it's just what's the path to do it? I think this is the best path right now."

 • The Coyotes won just 41 percent of face-offs in their first two games.

On Monday, Tocchet said he's not too concerned about it.

"With face-offs, you get hot and cold," Tocchet said. "Tomorrow night we might be 65 percent. You've got to look at it that way. But we definitely have to get better at face-offs. Wingers have got to help and defensemen have got to help on loose pucks because what happens is you're chasing the game. You lose possession and all of a sudden you've got to defend again."

• Tocchet said Antti Raanta would start Tuesday's game at Vegas. Raanta made 40 saves vs. the Golden Knights on Saturday in his first start of the season. He skipped last week's season opener because of a lower-body injury.

• The Coyotes will be the first visiting team to play a regular-season game at T-Mobile Arena. Tocchet is expecting the crowd inside the new rink to be incredibly loud and passionate. 

"As a player, on the other side, you've got to be ready to play," Tocchet said. "You have to have emotion going right into the game. You can't wade yourself in, put your toe into the water. You've got to be mentally focused and have passion invested into the game right away. We can't sit and wait." 

• NBC Sports Network will broadcast the Coyotes at Golden Knights game to a national audience. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Arizona time. 

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