The latest test for the Arizona Coyotes comes in the form of another key player who will miss time to injury. The team announced on Tuesday that Defenseman Jason Demers will be out week to week with a lower body injury. The loss of Demers for weeks means the Coyotes will be down two of their best defenseman. Earlier this season Niklas Hjalmarsson had knee surgery and has just begun to skate again.
The loss of Demers is the just the latest test the Coyotes must overcome to maintain their status of being a top tier team this season. Their first test was losing Hjalmarsson after just four games. Since then they are 17-8-3 and in his absence Jakob Chychrun has absolutely stepped up to be the teams best all around defenseman with 11 points and six goals which would put him on pace for career highs.Chychrun has drawn key ice time against the league’s best players in McDavid, Draisaitl, Matthews and Kane and has earned a lot of praise. His defense partner Alex Goligoski recently told The Athletic’s Craig Morgan how impressive Chychrun has been,
“I think he has been awesome. He’s confident with the puck, he’s playing really smart defense and he’s such a good skater and has such a good stick that it makes it hard on the opposing forwards because he’s always in their face. There’s not many rush opportunities where teams come in and he’s not getting a stick on a puck. That’s just confidence. He’s confident in his skating, he’s confident in his defending and he’s shooting the puck like crazy.”
The next test the Coyotes have passed is their schedule involving so much travel and so little practice time. Despite that lack of practice over the last month the Coyotes are still atop the Pacific Division with 40 points which is still a 102 point pace for the season.
Unfortunately the Coyotes are no stranger to injury, last season’s injury issues probably cost them a playoff spot but thanks in large part to the elite play of Darcy Kuemper the Coyotes were able to overcome so many injuries to even have a shot at the playoffs.
Lastly the Coyotes have overcome a slow start from Phil Kessel. The offseason prize for the Coyotes was on pace for career lows in points and goals but that hasn’t affected the team's record. Luckily for Arizona, Kessel is seemingly finding his game again with four points in four games on the recent four game road trip where the Coyotes went 3-1 with some of their best forechecking games of the season in Pittsburgh and Chicago.
In the short term the Coyotes have recalled Robbie Russo from Tucson with either him or Aaron Ness expected to take the place of Jason Demers.