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Coyotes send rookie Ekman-Larsson to minors

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Fifteen games into the season, the Coyotes still haven't found a way to string two wins together.

Now, they will have a new look on the blue line as they face their latest opportunity to get moving in the right direction -- against the Calgary Flames Friday night in the first of back-to-back home games this weekend.
Before Friday's game, the Coyotes sent rookie defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson down to San Antonio of the American Hockey League after his impressive early play tailed off. The No. 6 pick in 2009, Ekman-Larsson has 3 assists in 14 games, but has struggled mightily in the past three games -- taking overtime penalties in losses to Pittsburgh and Detroit and he was also beaten for the winning goal by Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings.

He saw his ice time slashed in Wednesday's 2-1 win in Chicago against the Blackhawks.
Garrett Stafford was recalled from San Antonio in the hopes of stabilizing the blueline and increasing the production of the struggling power play. Stafford has collected 12 points in 12 games for the Rampage this season and has been a proficient playmaker at the AHL level throughout his career.

Stafford has played in five NHL games with brief appearances with Detroit and Dallas.

Obviously, he was excited about another chance to prove he belongs in the league.

"It feels great," said Stafford, who will be paired with steady Sami Lepisto against the Flames. "Any time you get that call, obviously, this is what all of us dream about and I'm finally getting a chance, an opportunity, and it feels good."

Phoenix is only a few points out of a playoff spot despite a 5-5-5 start that has been mediocre across the board; 2-2-3 at home and 3-3-2 on the road.

However, the 2-1 win against Blackhawks -- featuring goals by Kyle Turris and Eric Belanger 35 seconds apart -- looked a lot more like the Phoenix team that frustrated opponents on the way to 50 wins and 107 points last year. Now, the Coyotes are hoping that taking three of four points in Detroit and Chicago is a sign of better days ahead.
The Flames know about a little about so-so starts themselves, going 7-7-0 out of the gate. They are also coming off a road win, taking down the Avalanche in Colorado on Tuesday behind two goals from left wing Curtis Glencross – who has 4 goals in his past 5 games.
The Coyotes will be watchful of Calgary captain Jarome Ignila, who has 30 goals in 51 career games against the Coyotes and has been especially lethal in games in Arizona. Iginla has struggled so far this season, scoring just twice in 14 games.
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