GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tobias Rieder had just one goal in his previous 20 games before Edmonton came to town on Tuesday.
“I had lots of chances in the past couple games and I just couldn’t find a way to put one in,” Rieder said.
The Oilers’ leaky defense was all too happy to help a former teammate. With just over three minutes left in the second period, the Coyotes won a faceoff in the Edmonton zone and Rieder won a puck battle with Oilers defenseman Griffin Reinhart.
As Rieder cut from the boards to the net, defenseman Jordan Oesterle offered a weak attempt to bat the puck away and forward Jordan Eberle took a spectator’s view. Rieder cut right across the top of the blue paint, withstood goalie Cam Talbot’s pokecheck attempt and tucked the puck into the far side of the net for his 13th goal of the season, and the eventual game-winner.
“I was surprised I got the lane to the net, first of all,” he said. “Then it just stuck to me somehow. It’s always good to beat those guys.”
Rieder picked a good time to bust his slump. Coyotes GM Don Maloney said last week that the team has opened negotiations on a new deal for the soon-to-be restricted free agent.
Rieder also earned the game’s first star under the watchful eye of Carolina assistant GM Rick Olczyk, who was in town to scout Rieder and a couple other players to fill out the roster of Team Europe for the upcoming Word Cup of Hockey.
“I had no idea he was here,” Rieder said. “I guess that’s good.”
The Coyotes would like to see Rieder contribute more offense. After starting the season with five goals in his first 12 games, he has eight goals in his last 62 to match his rookie total of 13 goals from last season.
That said, Rieder already has 23 assists (he had eight last year) and there are myriad other areas where he contributes.
“He’s a good two-way player,” coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s been down a little bit the last month or so; his numbers are off a little bit, but there’s lots of try. You never question his effort. It’s just sometimes as good as you want to be, the game doesn’t allow you to be good.”
Tippett has shuffled Rieder’s linemates in recent games to try and get him and others going offensively, but “he does a lot of things that help us win.”
As a restricted free agent, Rieder doesn’t expect to break the bank with his next deal. The Coyotes are only obligated to offer him a 105 percent raise on his current $925,000 salary (with a $92,500 signing bonus), but the fact that Maloney has opted to negotiate within the season is a clear sign of how much the Coyotes value Rieder’s game.
“It’s good to see that management and the organization wants you here and is trying to get this done early,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s the first time really you get to negotiate, or the agent gets to negotiate for you. I’m looking forward to what comes out of it.
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