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Less than the West’s best as Ducks, Coyotes meet

Jan 16, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras (11) reacts after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins won 4-3 in overtime.  Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Zegras is playing his best hockey of the season for the Anaheim Ducks and that could spell bad news for the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night at Tempe, Ariz.

Zegras is riding an NHL career-high five-game point streak (five goals, four assists). He has scored seven goals in his past eight games to give him a team-leading 17 on the season.

Zegras had two goals and an assist in a 6-3 loss at the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon, giving him six multigoal games for his NHL career, the second-most by an Anaheim player before turning 22 since Paul Kariya (13).

“His play is greatly improving always,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “He’s obviously an offensive threat all the time, he’s gotten much better defensively and managing the puck, and his growth continues.”

Zegras and the Ducks might also have a chip on their shoulders when they step on the ice at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena.

The last time Anaheim faced the Coyotes was in a preseason game on Sept. 28 when Zegras took a massive hit from right wing Jan Jenik, sidelining him with an upper-body injury for the next three preseason games.

The Ducks also had an incident with the Coyotes in November of 2021, when Anaheim forward Troy Terry sustained several facial injuries in a one-sided fight against Jay Beagle.

Neither Jenik nor Beagle are on the current Arizona roster, but the bitter memories likely remain with the Ducks.

Arizona is coming off its most impressive win this month, a 4-1 victory against the visiting Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. The Coyotes were shut out in back-to-back games before knocking off the Pacific Division leaders.

Arizona seized the momentum by scoring 1:59 into the game and never surrendered the lead.
“The way we started the game (against Vegas) was what we expected,” Arizona coach Andre Tourigny said. “That’s the way you should start.”

Clayton Keller scored the next three goals against the Golden Knights to give him his second NHL hat trick.

Keller had his first NHL hat trick last month, making him the first Arizona player with two hat tricks in a season since Mikkel Boedker in 2015-16.

“It’s nice to see some go in,” said Keller, who had two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games. “It’s a long season and you’re going to go through tough times, and maybe you don’t get the bounces you deserve, but something I’ve learned is not getting frustrated and sticking with it.”

The Ducks have been in Arizona since Saturday night, a few hours after they rallied back from a two-goal deficit against Buffalo to twice tie the score in the second period, but ultimately surrendered three unanswered goals in the third.

Eakins said one of the third-period goals came on a poorly-timed line change, and another on a turnover in the neutral zone.

“We’re a team, an obviously rebuilding team, that we have to play a perfect game to be in the game,” Eakins said. “That’s just the way it is where we’re at as an organization. Those mental mistakes can’t happen.”

Adam Henrique had an assist against Buffalo to extend his point streak to five games (four goals, three assists).

–Field Level Media