ANAHEIM — A month ago, the Arizona Coyotes were arguably among the NHL’s least exciting teams, destined for the basement of the Pacific Division and not much else.
Such a notion looks ridiculous now.
Arizona’s young stars are leading the charge to put the NHL on notice: The Coyotes have come to play. Look no further than their third consecutive win to open the season Wednesday night, when 20-year-old Anthony Duclair recorded his first career hat trick by the midway point of a 4-0 Coyotes victory against the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s very special,” Duclair said after the game. “Even just sharing it with these guys. We have a special group in this locker room and it makes it that much more fun. The veterans here have done a great job of easing the young guys into this team.”.
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Drafted by the Rangers in 2013, Duclair arrived in Arizona as the centerpiece of the trade that sent defenseman Keith Yandle to New York last March. The move signaled Arizona was, for better or worse, going younger, taking seriously the task of injecting energy, speed and, well, life into the Coyotes’ lineup.
“One of our things, we’ve tried to play fast all season,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “We want to be fast in our zone, fast in the neutral zone, fast to their net. We made a couple good plays there (tonight). We were solid throughout the game.”.
Duclair wasn’t the only young gun to have a night in Anaheim. Max Domi had an equally strong showing, grabbing a goal and an assist.
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“Collectively, we’ve done a pretty good job of understanding each other and getting some chemistry going,” Domi said. “We have a pretty special group here and we know that, and speed is one our things and we’re trying to use that to our advantage.”.
Center Martin Hanzal has been one of the veterans helping the new additions along. Hanzal missed much of last season following back surgery and was thrilled to be healthy again, let alone anchoring such a promising young team.
“Those younger guys are so fast, and we’re trying to use their skill,” he said. “Max and Duc, they’re so smart; it’s so nice to watch them. I’m just standing in front of the net, watching them make plays. We didn’t play one game together in the preseason, but it has just clicked.”.
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For a team not initially pegged to be a major player, the Coyotes now have defeated the Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ducks to start the season. But 79 regular season contests await, and standing pat is not an option for the youth of Arizona.
“They are really working hard and playing a strong team game and trying to fit in, but we need their (continued) speed and skill,” Tipplett said. “You have speed and skill that allows (us) to score some goals and that (also) extenuates when you have (others) defending in front of your net. We have a good balance, and we’re playing the right way.”.
Follow Kristen Shilton on Twitter @kristen_shilton.
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