The Arizona Coyotes have had some struggles through the first few weeks of the season. Through the first 10 games, Arizona posted a disappointing 3-6-1 record and found themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. However, the Coyotes have since put together consecutive victories over the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs as they try and get their season back on track. Two of Arizona’s newest members, rookie Tobias Rieder and veteran Sam Gagner, played big roles in those two victories.
It is a remarkable achievement for a rookie to get their first NHL goal in their first game. The Coyotes had already seen Justin Hodgman accomplish that feat earlier this season when he scored in his debut on October 25. During Rieder’s debut on November 2 in Washington, the German forward notched his first career NHL goal with a nice finish on a 2-on-1 break.
Rieder’s goal proved to be a big one as Arizona withstood a late Washington rally for a 6-5 win. In addition to being the second Coyote rookie to score in his first game this year, he became the eighth rookie to do so since the team moved to Arizona.
Gagner had a slow start to this campaign, going pointless in his first six games with his new team. Since then, he has registered a point in four of his last six contests, including a goal in the last two. Gagner got Arizona going in the third period Sunday against Washington with a great shot from close range, then buried a blast following a Toronto turnover to open the scoring during Tuesday’s game.
Arizona has desperately needed their offense to start producing goals during 5-on-5 situations, and Rieder and Gagner have combined for three of the Coyotes’ seven even-strength tallies in their last two games. The Coyotes hope that this will be the spark they have been looking for to power their even-strength offense. With a pair of tough opponents on the horizon in the Anaheim Ducks and the New York Islanders, Arizona will need more players like Rieder and Gagner to step up if they want to continue the momentum they have gotten from back-to-back wins.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.