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Coyotes fourth line is still a mystery

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With their preseason wrapping up tomorrow, there are still questions about who will be playing where for the Arizona Coyotes’ fourth line heading into their first game of the regular season against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 13.

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When the NHL roster has played in the preseason, the top three lines have remained the same, but the fourth has been interchangeable.

Here is the list of the 1-3 lines for the Coyotes that played in the NHL Global Series in Australia on Sept. 22-23 and yesterday against the Anaheim Ducks:

Keller – Hayton – Schmaltz

Zucker – Cooley – Guenther

Crouse – Bjugstad – Maccelli

Now, the second and third lines can flip, but players on each line will most likely remain the same.

However, there are five players below them who will be fighting for a spot.

But, who will start as the Coyotes’ last offensive trio?

And who will be right on the fringe, but won’t make the starting lineup in game 1?

It’s a mystery as to who Coyotes head coach André Tourigny will choose.

When looking at who will be on the fourth line, it will be like a revolving door; some players in, some out.

New Coyotes winger Alex Kerfoot is the only one who should have a guaranteed position against New Jersey.

So far in the preseason, the former Toronto Maple Leaf in Kerfoot has 1 goal and 2 assists in the 4 games that he’s played for Arizona.

Another telling reason is because Kerfoot is playing on one of the two penalty kill lines with Coyotes center Barrett Hayton.

Being a forward who can play both ends of the ice, Kerfoot’s versatility will make him a mainstay in the lineup.

Center Dilemma

As for the other four, it gets tricky.

Arizona centers Travis Boyd and Jack McBain are up for contention for the final two center spots on the roster.

Even though Boyd started the season last year on the first line with stars Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, the emergence of Hayton, Arizona adding rookie Logan Cooley and resigning Nick Bjugstad bumped him down the pecking order.

Last season, Boyd scored 15 goals and assisted 19 times for 34 points in 82 games.

In preseason, he has only 1 assist in 4 games.

Since he can play on the wing and at center, however, Boyd has a better opportunity to be part the starting lineup more often.

With McBain, he also played on the top line for a couple of games, but just hasn’t really produced at the NHL level so far.

The 6’4″ center has had 29 points in 92 games in his first two seasons with Arizona.

McBain’s defensive prowess and physicality on the ice is what his game is about.

If the Coyotes need speed one night, go with Boyd. Go with McBain if the opponents have a more physical presence.

Last Winger

Same can be said about who will start as the other fourth line wing with Kerfoot: Liam O’Brien or Michael Carcone?

The decision should be simple, it’s Carcone.

After being the 2022-23 American Hockey League’s leading scorer with 31 goals and 54 assists for 85 points in 65 games, Carcone signed a two-year deal with Coyotes in the offseason.

He possesses speed and a quick shot that should give Arizona yet another threat on the wing.

O’Brien will most likely the odd man out, though he may play if there are injuries or other reasons someone one the team can’t play.

With 114 penalty minutes last season and only 3 goals and 8 assists in 56 games, his low offensive contribution along with taking too many penalties will keep him out of the lineup often.

Tourigny has a challenge ahead of him.

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Alec Cipollini is a journalist covering the Arizona Coyotes and Phoenix Rising for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his new X account @AlecCipollini

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