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Seeking more success in new arena, Coyotes clash with Stars

Nov 1, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka (70) makes a save against the Florida Panthers during the third period at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After their first victory on their new home ice, the Arizona Coyotes will look to continue the momentum when they take on the Dallas Stars on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz.

The Coyotes were 0-1-1 in their first two games at Mullett Arena but broke through Tuesday with a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Though Arizona trailed late into the second period and was outshot by a 42-21 margin, the Coyotes scored three unanswered goals for their third win of the season.

Karel Vejmelka stopped 41 of 42 shots to keep the Coyotes in the game and will likely be back in net against Dallas. Vejmelka has a 3.84 goals-against average over six games, but also hasn’t received much help from his defense — the goalie is seeing an average of 38.7 shots per game.

While Vejmelka held the Panthers at bay, the Coyotes’ red-hot power play led to the comeback. After the Coyotes came up empty on their first two chances with the extra attacker, Lawson Crouse and Nick Ritchie scored power-play goals to put Arizona ahead.

“Power play is a matter of execution,” Coyotes head coach Andre Tourigny said. “The pass has to be on the tape. The pass has to be quick. We need to be crisp. We went into the third and we zipped the puck and scored a big goal.”

Arizona’s 32.4 percent power-play percentage (11-for-34) is among the best in the NHL, marking a surprising turnaround from last season. The Coyotes scored a league-worst 28 power-play goals during the 2021-22 campaign, converting on just 13.9 percent of their power plays, which ranked 30th of the 32 teams.

The Coyotes’ power play will be tested against a strong Dallas penalty-kill unit, though the Stars would prefer to avoid regularly displaying this skill. Dallas has been short-handed 45 times for 72:40 of ice time, both totals among the highest of any team in the league.

The Stars’ own power-play success fueled their 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. After going scoreless in 13 power-play chances in their previous four games, the Stars were 3-for-4 with the man advantage against the Kings, with Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski all collecting goals.

Though the Stars are only 2-3-0 in their last five games, Tuesday’s win put them back into first place in the Central Division.

It isn’t surprising that Dallas had some struggles during the absence of defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who missed three games with a lower-body injury before recording two assists in his return Tuesday.

“I’ve been skating a lot when I was gone, so it wasn’t too bad to jump in and play again,” said Heiskanen, who had 19:15 of ice time.

Scott Wedgewood saved 30 of 32 shots, a solid outing for a goalie who could be the Stars’ top choice between the pipes for at least the next week. Regular starter Jake Oettinger is out of action due to a lower-body injury.

Arizona’s Zack Kassian (lower-body injury) is day-to-day after being a late scratch from Tuesday’s lineup. Conor Timmins (upper-body injury) is also questionable after missing the Coyotes’ last seven games.

The Stars have dominated the all-time series lately. Dating back to the 2015-16 season, Dallas is 13-2-1 in its last 16 meetings against the Coyotes.

–Field Level Media