SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona Coyotes have been searching for some offensive spark all season. It turns out the pilot light might have been in the minor leagues all along.
Coach Dave Tippett’s decision to have rookie Tobias Rieder start alongside Antoine Vermette and Shane Doan on the first line produced four goals in a 6-5 come-from-behind win Sunday against the Washington Capitals, and that trio will remain intact Tuesday when the Coyotes face the Toronto Maple Leafs at Gila River Arena.
Rieder, 21, made his first NHL goal a game-winner against Washington, scoring with 4:27 left in regulation. Doan and Vermette combined for three goals and six points in by far their most productive game of the season. That allowed the Coyotes to spread their offensive wealth a little bit and the slumping Mikkel Boedker responded with two assists while playing the right side for the first time this season with Lauri Korpikoski and Sam Gagne, who scored his first goal as a Coyote against the Capitals.
“He was a top player [with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League] in all situations and was playing against the best players. You could see he was playing well,” Tippett said of Rieder. “He’s a smart player and that shows. We put him right on the top line and he looked like a top player. He was sent down and he took it as another step that he needed to take to learn.”
Rieder became the second Coyote to score a goal in his first NHL game in an eight-day span and both were huge. Justin Hodgman scored the game-tying goal late in a 2-1 overtime win against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 25. Hodgman was sent back to the Portland on Monday. Defenseman Brandon Gormley was recalled from Portland and will make his first appearance alongside Michael Stone against the Leafs.
Gormley played 22 games for the Coyotes last season but didn’t have a strong training camp.
“My expectation was he was going to be part of our team, but for whatever reason he didn’t have a great camp, He was battling some nagging injuries,” Tippett said. “He went down, got himself healthy, played a handful of games and looks like the player we saw at the end of the season last year and he’ll get an opportunity tonight.”
“There’s a lot to like about his game, but he doesn't have to feel like he has to make the NHL on his first two shifts. He just has to be a solid player, and he has the game and the mindset to do that.”
Even with the win Sunday, Tippett is not happy with a defense that ranks 30th in the league in goals against and was still very shaky against the Capitals.
“I love scoring six goals, but the chances of scoring six every night are pretty slim,” he said. “You’d better not give up five in this League. Until we start cleaning up that end we’ll never be able to score enough.”
Arizona will face a hot team Tuesday. Toronto has won three straight games, outscoring opponents 9-1 in even strength situations during the run. The Leafs needed 26 third-period saves from goalie James Reimer to pull out a 3-2 win Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toronto did not skate Tuesday. The goalie is undecided but Jonathan Bernier, who has a 3-0-0 career record with a 1.15 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage against the Coyotes, would figure to get healthy consideration as the Leafs look for their third straight win against Arizona.
Here are the projected lineups:
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – David Clarkson
Leo Komarov – Peter Holland – Mike Santorelli
Richard Panik – Sam Carrick – Carter Ashton
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
Jake Gardiner – Stephane Robidas
Scratched – Matt Frattin
Injured: David Booth (foot), Joffrey Lupul (broken hand)
Tobias Rieder -- Antoine Vermette -- Shane Doan
Rob Klinkhammer – Martin Hanzal – Martin Erat
Lauri Korpikoski -- Sam Gagner – Mikkel Boedker
Brandon McMillan – Joe Vitale – B.J. Crombeen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle – Connor Murphy
Brandon Gormley – Michael Stone
Scratched: Kyle Chipchura, David Schlemko, Chris Summers,
Injured: David Moss (upper body)
Status Report: Arizona’s second line will have a new look tonight. Rob Klinkhammer, a healthy scratch against Washington, will play with Martin Hanzal and Martin Erat. Kyle Chipchura will sit out. … Moss was on the ice with a non-contact jersey Tuesday. Tippett said he will skate without pucks for another week. The Maple Leafs recalled center Sam Carrick and defenseman Stuart Percy from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League on Monday. Carrick made his NHL debut Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Who's Hot: The Maple Leafs have half of their six wins on Tuesdays (3-0-0). … Rieder became the first German-born player to score in his NHL debut since Oct. 4, 1997, when Marco Sturm scored in his first game with the San Jose Sharks.