Here’s the good news for the Coyotes to come out of their 3-2 preseason victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday at Glendale Arena: Ladislav Nagy, the team’s most talented offensive player, scored for the first time since Jan. 14, and Phoenix finally started to find some rhythm on the power play.
Here’s the bad news: Nagy is questionable for Phoenix’s next contest, and after six games, goalie Mike Morrison has more points than forwards Mike Comrie, Jeremy Roenick and Shane Doan combined.
Nagy, who is coming off two knee surgeries and missed the final 29 games of last season, scored the first of two second-period power plays goals to help the Coyotes rally from a 2-0 hole. He left later in the period, though, due to a cut on his right palm which required seven stitches. He will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s exhibition finale.
“I’ve been getting better every game, but I’ve got to work on a couple things in practice and I’ll be fine,” said Nagy, whose production will go a long way toward determining Phoenix fate this season.
“When he plays at the level he plays at, it seems to take our whole team to another level,” coach Wayne Gretzky said. “Tonight he played really well.”
The team’s power play moved to a different level as well. After starting out the season 0-for-37, Phoenix scored on two of nine opportunities Thursday.
Morrison had an assist on the first, which gives him more points (one) than the Coyotes top line.
“As I said to some of our guys this morning, I know it’s still early and it’s training camp and guys are finding their way, but we need some offensive production out of some big boys,” Gretzky said before the game. “That’s not added pressure. That’s just a fact and that’s part of the business of the sport.”
“You understand that is the preseason, but we have to be better,” Doan said. “It’s not a switch you can turn on and off.” Gretzky softened his stance afterward.
“I’m not worried about it, but obviously it’s a concern,” he said.
“Come next Wednesday, Thursday nobody is going to remember these games. We just want to make sure each guy is preparing themselves the best possible way to be ready for next Thursday (opening) night.”
Patrick Fischer and Georges Laraque scored Phoenix’s final two goals.
In addition to his assist, Morrison finished with 22 saves while playing a full game for the first time and seems to have an edge in his battle with David LeNeveu to back up Curtis Joseph.
Gretzky wouldn’t declare the race over the game but did say, “(Morrison) had a great game tonight, and he’s had a great camp. We’re not going to make any decisions until Saturday.”
However, multiple team officials have indicated Morrison, who had better numbers (3.05 goals-against average, .880 save percentage) than LeNeveu (3.75, .821) coming into Thursday, has won the job. Gretzky said he will decide today which goalie will start Saturday.
LOOSE PUCK: Forward Owen Nolan suffered a hip pointer in Wednesday’s game, Gretzky said, and was held out of Thursday’s morning skate and game as a precautionary move. Gretzky said he is hopeful Nolan will be able to play in Saturday’s preseason finale.