The Arizona Coyotes returned home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, and a high-scoring, back-and-forth game was highlighted by the team’s suddenly-spectacular goalie Scott Wedgewood. The Coyotes also received an added boost with the return of (newly re-minted) center Ryan Dzingel.
Arizona ultimately lost 5-4 in a shootout, though the team now has points in consecutive games for the first time this season, and looks to continue that trend when the Detroit Red Wings come to the desert on Saturday.
Dzingel Scores in Return, Provides Immediate Spark
Dzingel had not played since the Coyotes’ loss to the Florida Panthers on Oct. 25, but wasted no time upon his return, notching the game’s first goal just six minutes into the first period. It wasn’t without its challenges, considering he was playing center for the first time “since probably college,” he said after the game, and ultimately finished with one goal, and a plus-1, in 11:58 Time on Ice. He also won three of his five faceoff attempts.
His impact went beyond the scoresheet, as well. Dzingel and Columbus’ Cole Sillinger squared off a little over five minutes into the third period — with the game tied at three at that point — riling up his teammates, as well as the announced crowd of 7,865 at Gila River Arena.
Arizona ultimately fell after a seven-round shootout, but not before the team’s resilience and identity started to show through. The often-vocal Dzingel is a big reason for that.
“I think it’s just tough not playing for a while, so just trying to bring some energy, and I think the guys are sick of hearing me talk,” he joked after the game, “so I think I just try to bring energy to the rink every day.”
That energy has been felt by both his teammates and coaches. Both head coach Andrè Tourigny and teammate Jakob Chychrun noted after the game what it meant to have him back in the lineup, and it showed from the moment the puck dropped on Thursday.
“I think we had a better effort tonight, at the end of the second we gave them those opportunities and they capitalized, but other than that I thought we played a pretty solid game,” Chychrun said. “It was nice to come back a couple of times and be able to stick with it and keep tying the game up and give us a chance. We did some good things to get the one point.”
Dzingel, as mentioned earlier, played center for the first time since college on Thursday, and didn’t mince words when asked to rate his performance.
“I’ll be good at men’s league, after my career ends, when I play center there,” the 29-year-old said with a laugh.
Wedgewood Continues to Impress with Coyotes
Wedgewood, still donning his old New Jersey Devils pads and helmet, dazzled yet again between the pipes, making 42 saves in his fifth appearance with Arizona this season. He’s won two of them, and anchored the team deep into a shootout before ultimately taking the shootout loss. He’s stopped 138 of the 148 shots he’s faced while with the Coyotes, a save percentage of .932 over that span.
None have been more spectacular than a sprawling glove save early in the game, preserving Arizona’s 1-0 lead at the time.
His effort is not lost on his teammates.
“That save in the first was ridiculous, that should be a goal for [Columbus],” Chychrun said. “You need to rely on your goalie a lot of times in this league, and to have a guy that’s playing with confidence is always key.”
Wedgewood has also provided some much-needed relief for rookie Karel Vejmelka, who was critical to keeping the Coyotes in games early this season, but has struggled as of late. Goalie Carter Hutton’s absence has complicated Arizona’s tandem situation, but the 29-year-old Wedgewood has stepped in and stabilized it in a hurry.
The Coyotes are set to face the Red Wings on Saturday at Gila River Arena, a team that was in Arizona’s rebuild position not that long ago. Though Detroit has lost three straight games heading into Saturday’s matchup, they are much further along in their rebuild, and have budding stars Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider in the lineup, as well as a solid goalie tandem in Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss.
It may be a peek into the crystal ball this weekend – a glimpse of what might be to come in just a few years. For the time being, though, the Coyotes are building upon the small victories within each game, and continue to gel as the season wears on.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.