GLENDALE, Ariz. — Allowing six goals to the St. Louis Blues in the final game of a homestand was bad enough for the Coyotes. As they head out on a season-defining, five-game road trip back east, they’ll have to deal with the added unease of not knowing defenseman Oliver-Ekman Larsson’s status for the trip.
Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury when he hooked and tripped Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko early in the first period and appeared to get twisted under Tarasenko as both fell to the ice. Ekman-Larsson was helped to the bench and the locker room. He returned briefly to test the injury then left again and did not return.
i believe this is where OEL got hurt pic.twitter.com/oXjOzzAecB
— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 21, 2016
“He’ll come on the trip tomorrow,” said coach Dave Tippett, who does not think it is a long-term injury and listed him as day-to-day. “I’m not ruling him out for Monday yet. He wanted to come back. When we looked at it we decided to keep him out.”
Losing Ekman-Larsson for any period of time would be a crucial loss for the Coyotes, but the timing could not be worse. The Coyotes are set to embark on a critical trip that begins with a game against the NHL’s top team, the Washington Capitals.
Arizona also faces defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay on Tuesday, the Atlantic Division leading Florida Panthers, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
Following Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Blues, the Coyotes fell six points behind Colorado and five points behind Nashville in the race for the NHL’s two Western Conference wild card spots, making these games all the more important.
Ekman-Larsson averages a team-high 25:14 of ice time per game, making him one of two Coyotes who logs more than 20 minutes per game. He is critical to the Coyotes’ power play and leads the team in power-play goals with 11. He also leads the team in game-winning goals with seven, he is second among NHL defensemen with 17 goals and fifth in points with 45.
“He’s our best player,” captain Shane Doan said. “He does so much for us in every situation. Everybody is scared. Obviously, he’s a big part of our team.”
In Ekman-Larsson’s absence, Kevin Connauton logged 31:11 of ice time.
Tippett said he is not concerned that the flight could cause stiffening to Ekman-Larsson’s injury, but the back-to-back games could be a challenge for the defenseman, who won’t be afforded any recovery time.
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