|7:00 PM PT8:00 PM MT9:00 PM CT10:00 PM ET2:00 GMT10:00 7:00 PM MST9:00 PM EST6:00 UAE (+1)22:00 ET23:00 BRT, October 3, 2019
Honda Center, Anaheim, California Attendance: 17,174
Kessel making Coyotes' debut vs. punchless Ducks
Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka addressed his team's lack of scoring punch in 2018-19 by registering what he hoped was a knockout blow in the offseason.
Chayka will see the first bout play out on Thursday as six-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel makes his debut for the Coyotes in their season opener against the host Anaheim Ducks.
Kessel, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins for fellow forward Alex Galchenyuk on June 30, enjoyed a point-per-game pace in 2018-19 and matched the second-highest single-season output (82 points) of his 13-year career.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion didn't need to introduce himself to head coach Rick Tocchet, who served as his assistant coach for three seasons (2014-17) with the Penguins.
Kessel isn't the only new acquisition for the Coyotes, who welcomed Carl Soderberg after the 33-year-old Swede recorded a career-high 23 goals last season with the Colorado Avalanche.
The additions certainly are welcome in Arizona, which saw second-year forward Clayton Keller lead the team with just 47 points last season. That type of offense was a main reason why the Coyotes narrowly missed out on securing their first postseason berth since reaching the 2012 Western Conference finals.
"Yes. Top to bottom, through the middle of the ice, premium positions, I can say confidently this is the best roster," Chayka said. "Now, they're going to go out and play, and the results are what matter. We'll see how many points we can get in the standings, but certainly the expectation is to progress and be better."
Chayka also addressed the team's last line of defense by signing goaltender Darcy Kuemper to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday.
Kuemper capped a career season by posting a sizzling 22-9-6 record with a 2.05 goals-against average in his last 37 decisions. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Kuemper is expected to share goaltending duties with Antti Raanta, who is returning from knee surgery.
"I'm thrilled to re-sign with the Coyotes," Kuemper said. "We have a great team and first-class organization and I love living and playing in the Valley. I'm excited to grow and build with our group."
While positives abound in Arizona, Anaheim saw the bottom fall out in 2018-19 as a demoralizing 5-21-4 stretch sent the team spiraling to a sixth-place finish in the Pacific Division.
John Gibson will be tasked with saving new coach Dallas Eakins' bacon for a Ducks' squad that struggled to score goals (2.43 per game) and is in the midst of transition.
Gibson sported a 26-22-8 record with two shutouts, a 2.84 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 2018-19. The 26-year-old's GAA was the highest of his career, although he received little help with the team ravaged by injuries last season.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf led the team in assists (34) and points (48) in 2018-19 and has seen progress after the club capped a 4-1-1 mark in preseason with a 2-1 victory over Arizona on Saturday.
"We're being positive. We're moving in the right direction. That's the main thing we're looking for in the preseason," the 34-year-old Getzlaf said. "The results are great, but it's about building our game."
--Field Level Media
Updated October 2, 2019