Injuries and rehabilitations have forced the Anaheim Ducks to insert several rookies into their lineup during the first week of the season, but they're off to one of their best starts in franchise history heading into their fourth game Wednesday night against the visiting Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center.
The Ducks (3-0-0) have already defeated the Coyotes this season, getting outshot 41-20 in Phoenix on Saturday night but holding on for a 1-0 victory behind exceptional play from goaltender John Gibson, who has saved 91 of 95 shots this season (.958).
"He's been our MVP for the three games," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said after Gibson made 19 saves in a 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings on Monday night. "You don't have a starting point in the NHL if you don't have goaltending."
The Coyotes (0-2-0) are still looking for their first goal of the season after losing 3-0 at the Dallas Stars in their season opener on Thursday and then getting blanked by Anaheim.
Arizona coach Rick Tocchet told reporters after practice Tuesday that his team needs to quit taking shortcuts during practice. He cited an example of players not following up their shots and pursuing rebounds.
"As a player, when you do drills, finish the drill," he said. "If you do the right things, good things will happen. I'm a big believer, if you're taking shortcuts, then it's hard to get out of a slump."
Arizona was the second lowest scoring team in the NHL last season at 2.51 goals per game. The Coyotes traded center Max Domi to the Montreal Canadiens in June for center Alex Galchenyuk, the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2012.
Galchenyuk sustained a lower-body injury late last month and isn't expected to be in uniform against Anaheim. Domi, a top-three point producer for Arizona the past three seasons, already has three assists in his first two games with Montreal.
Coyotes forwards Derek Stepan and Richard Panik found room to shoot against the Ducks last weekend. Stepan had nine shots on goal and Panik had seven, but neither could get one past Gibson.
"We can get a better will to get to the net," Tocchet said. "We're getting pushed to the side a little bit. I think we're passing up some shots, even though we're getting some shots."
Max Comtois is one of the five rookie forwards that the Ducks started against the Red Wings on Monday. He had an assist to give him a point in each of his first three NHL games.
The only other rookie in franchise history to accomplish that feat was Corey Perry in 2005-06.
"This is baptism by fire for young players," Carlyle said. "We have our ample share of them in the lineup, but these are situations, hopefully, where they can grow and get more confidence.
"Hats off to them. We put them in situations, historically, they would play in lower levels. This is the best league in the world. They were in there and survived, so hopefully they feel good about themselves."
Jakob Silfverberg is also off to a hot start for the Ducks. He has five points (one goal, four assists), becoming the first Anaheim player with five points in the first three games since Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler in 2014.