Jets, Coyotes aim to shed slow starts following break

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Both the Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes head into Tuesday’s matchup in the desert with one benefit. After lengthy layoffs due to chaos caused by the COVID-19 outbreaks that have raced through the league, they are suiting up against each other with some action under their belts.

The Jets arrive in Glendale, Ariz., on the heels of Sunday’s 5-4 overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, which was the Jets’ first game since Dec. 19 — after which five games were postponed.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes are thankful for their one game since Dec. 17, a wild 8-7 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 28.

Both clubs showed the effects of inactivity in their last outings.

The Jets blew a two-goal third-period lead before finishing off Vegas in overtime, while defensive play appeared to be an afterthought in the Coyotes’ loss to the Sharks.

“These past couple of weeks, they’ve been challenging. It’s tough to watch other teams play, and for us try to get as ready as you can,” said Jets forward Kyle Connor, who scored the overtime winner against the Golden Knights.

“You could see (rust) in our first period. We were lagging behind a little bit. I felt we did build throughout the game,” he said.

Winnipeg trailed 2-0 after a disappointing first period, but recovered with four consecutive goals before watching that lead disappear, a perfect indication of a team trying to find its game.

“We knew that there was probably going to be some rust and there were probably going to be some hiccups,” interim coach Dave Lowry said. “We turned over a couple of pucks and it ended up in our net, but we just talked about if we could cut the lead in half in the second period, that would give us an opportunity to come into the third period and give us a chance to win the hockey game.”

The Coyotes, whose Jan. 2 home date with the Dallas Stars became their fifth postponed game in the past couple of weeks, had the same feeling as the Jets when they finally suited up against the Sharks. Arizona took solace in erasing a trio of deficits, capping that with a pair of late goals to tie the game 7-7 and gain a single point with the extra-time defeat.

“There were a lot of breakdowns on both sides, a lot of turnovers a lot of stuff like that,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “That’s what happens when you’re not playing for 11 days.”

The Coyotes, who sit last in the league and have just one win in eight games (1-6-1), have nowhere near enough positives in what’s becoming a tough season, but may have found a new spot for center Johan Larsson. With top-line center Travis Boyd on the sidelines due to COVID, Larsson skated with Lawson Crouse and Phil Kessel against the Sharks and collected three assists for a trio that combined for 11 points.

Larsson, who has missed a dozen games due to illness and injury, believes his conditioning is finally up to snuff thanks to the break between games.

“You just want to get into a rhythm, but it happens, and I used the break to get in shape and get back to normal things and feel better,” said Larsson, the veteran who is in his second season with the Coyotes. “From that aspect it was good and last game I felt better.”

–Field Level Media

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