GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Dallas Stars probably don’t need to be reminded of this sports adage: Beware of the desperate team.
The Stars will meet still-winless Arizona in the second half of a back-to-back on Thursday night at Gila River Arena, and their tougher-than-it-looked 3-1 victory in Dallas on Tuesday is testimony to how badly the Coyotes want to win.
And, too, how badly the Coyotes’ season is going. Arizona is 0-5-1, with only one point collected in six games — or nine points fewer than the expansion Vegas Golden Knights have.
The Coyotes have scored more than two goals only once, in their opener, and their inconsistent defensive play is clearly wearing on new coach Rick Tocchet.
“We’ve just got to keep punching away,” Tocchet said. “That’s a good hockey club over there, and we were close (Tuesday), but just not good enough.”
That has been the youthful Coyotes’ problem to date: just not good enough. However, Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock felt the same way after his team won Tuesday despite what he thought was his club’s most inconsistent game of the season.
“The players and staff know we will have to be much better Thursday if we expect to collect two points,” he said. “I wasn’t impressed with our continuity. So was it them or was it us?”
The Stars (3-3-0) have yet to win on the road, going 0-2-0 while being outscored 8-3. Then again, the Coyotes are 0-2-1 at home, and they have dropped five in a row overall to the Stars.
Tocchet, who discussed making lineup changes and toughening up practices following a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at home on Saturday, didn’t signal any major adjustments on Wednesday.
Tocchet apparently plans to stay with rookie goaltender Adin Hill, who didn’t look overmatched Tuesday while stopping 31 of 33 shots in his first NHL game. The fifth goaltender drafted in 2015, he is the first in that draft class to play in the league. After his debut, Hill said he felt at home.
“I thought I made good reads throughout the game,” said Hill, who was called up after recording a shutout for AHL Tucson on Saturday. “I felt comfortable. I felt like myself. It was my first NHL game, and I definitely feel like I can play at this level.”
A confident goaltender can be just what a slumping team needs to end its losing ways, and Tocchet liked how Hill carried himself in net. The Coyotes remain without starting goalie Antti Raanta, who has dealt with multiple lower-body injuries since training camp started.
“That’s a bright spot for us right now,” Tocchet said of Hill, the third goalie to start for Arizona already this season. “I thought he came in and did a good job. The game wasn’t too big for him.”
Tocchet wasn’t referring to Hill’s 6-foot-6 height, either.
Asked Wednesday whether Hill would be back in net, Tocchet said, “Yeah, I think so.”
Hitchcock also isn’t switching goalies, staying with Ben Bishop, who is 3-1-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. He stopped 27 of 28 shots on Tuesday.
“When you’re playing a light schedule like we are (right now), there is no reason Ben can’t play,” Hitchcock said.
Hitchcock will make one switch with his defensive pairings, putting Jamie Oleksiak back with Marc Methot after scratching Oleksiak the last two games. Defenseman Julius Honka will be scratched.
Stars center Tyler Seguin leads the team with three goals and is tied with defenseman John Klingberg for the team high with five points. Left winger Max Domi has a team-high five points for the Coyotes, while rookie left winger Clayton Keller has three goals.