Dylan Strome’s best opportunity to make a difference for the Coyotes came Tuesday night when he skated nearly 17 minutes in Arizona’s victory over the San Jose Sharks, and a pair of injuries could have the rookie in line for a continued role in the top six.
Over the course of the Coyotes’ 3-2 win, both Martin Hanzal and Tobias Rieder were forced to leave the outing with lower-body injuries, and there’s no clear timeline on when either could be returning to action.
The first to leave the game was Hanzal, who exited the game after the first frame. The 29-year-old pivot opened the contest and took seven shifts, skating 5:31 in the period, but come the start of the second period, he wasn’t on the bench and it was later reported that he wouldn’t be returning to the contest.
"He was dealing with some issues this morning," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said, according to AZ Central’s Sarah McLellan. "He said he could play. He said he was going to be fine to play. But then after the first period, he came in and said he couldn't play anymore.”
As for Rieder, it wasn’t until the third period that he was forced to leave the game. After lining up for the opening faceoff in the third, Rieder took a nine-second shift before leaving the ice, and he didn’t return for the duration of the contest. Unlike Hanzal’s injury, though, there appears to be some certainty about when and how Rieder fell injured.
Late in the second period, Rieder blocked a shot from Sharks blueliner David Schlemko as time expired and the Coyotes winger was slow to get to his feet.
According to McLellan, Tippett said he didn’t know for sure if that was the block on the Schlemko shot that injured Rieder or “the accumulation of all of” Rieder’s four blocks through two periods. What is known, though, is that Rieder, like Hanzal, finds himself day-to-day with a lower-body ailment.
With Hanzal and Rieder out short-term, at the very least, attention could turn to Strome.
The 19-year-old center has had a trying time making any mark in the Coyotes’ lineup through the first nine games of the season and has spent five of the nine outings watching from the sideline as a healthy scratch. Even in the games he did play, Strome had seen his ice time diminish from 14:13 to 10:41 over the course of three straight contests.
However, with Hanzal and Rieder out, more minutes fell to Strome. He found a fit between Anthony Duclair and Jamie McGinn, and earned himself two minutes of power play time with two key offensive players shelved for the night. His 16:49 was the most ice time he’s skated this season, and the hope is that, regardless of the health of Hanzal and Rieder, Strome can build off of the opportunity he was given.
The fact is that Strome and the Coyotes find themselves in a difficult spot. Over the past two seasons, Strome has dominated the OHL and there really won’t be much to be gained from sending him back to junior with 82 goals and 240 points in 124 games over the past two years. But he’s yet to show he can have that same offensive impact in the NHL. It has only been four games, sure, but Strome has one assist and has been able to muster just four shots on goal in roughly 55 minutes of ice time.
With the Coyotes unable to send him to the AHL, though, it’s on Strome to show that he can hang in the NHL, and having more minutes heaped upon him due to injury could be one way for Strome to prove his worth.
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