NHL pluses and minuses: Phoenix Coyotes’ defense has scoring touch

Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers last month. The Coyotes are getting plenty of offense from their blueline corps.
(Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

+ A key to the early success of the Phoenix Coyotes (10-3-2) is the production they are getting from their defense. Oliver Ekman-Larsson (three goals, 11 points), Keith Yandle (1-10—11) and Derek Morris (4-6—10) ranked 4-5-6 in defensemen scoring through Sunday’s games.

+ Welcome back Manny Malhotra, who returned to the NHL last Friday with the Carolina Hurricanes. The classy forward suffered a devastating eye injury in 2011 while with the Vancouver Canucks; fearing his impaired vision jeopardized his safety, they played him in only nine games last season and didn’t re-sign him. He won 15 of 20 faceoffs in his first game back and 10 of 14 in his second.

+ Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 29 Montreal shots Saturday to help the Colorado Avalanche improve to 12-1-0, matching the franchise-best start by the 1994-95 Quebec Nordiques. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who spent Wednesday night in jail after his girlfriend accused him of kidnapping and assault, was allowed to travel to Dallas and earned a 3-2 win Friday. According to the Denver Post, the Denver district attorney is expected to decide within a week or so whether to file charges against Varlamov.

- It’s difficult to avoid giving the Edmonton Oilers a minus every week, but they’re deserving. They’re 0-4-1 in their last five, 3-10-2 overall and have been shut out twice in a row at home. Goalie Richard Bachman, who started Saturday because Devan Dubnyk had a sore foot, couldn’t finish after he injured his groin.


- The Hurricanes, who lost goalies Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin to injuries, have dropped five straight games. Desperate for help, their American Hockey League affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, signed former New York Islander Rick DiPietro to a pro tryout. DiPietro, who was bought out by the Islanders and will get $1.5 million a year from them through 2028-29, was 0-2 with a 4.53 goals-against average and .875 save percentage in his first two appearances.

- Florida Panthers Coach Kevin Dineen took a bold step by making a healthy scratch of veteran forward Kris Versteeg against Washington on Saturday. But that didn’t stop a slide that’s now at 0-2-3.