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Coyotes ‘Three Stars’ of season as All-Star Break nears

© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With the NHL All-Star Break just a couple weeks away, the Arizona Coyotes have a few more games before the hockey world will have all eyes on the Toronto spectacle.

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So far this season, the Coyotes have appeared to take another step, creeping out of a rebuild and competing in meaningful games.

Arizona have been as high as third place in the Central Division, but as low as 11th in the Western Conference.

There were major moves in the offseason to help bolster the core of the Coyotes’ roster.

Nick Bjugstad, Troy Stecher, Alex Kerfoot, Logan Cooley, etc.

While the playoff picture in the Western Conference is unprecedentedly compiled of four teams chasing the last two Wild Card spots, the ‘Yotes will have to crawl out of a 3-6 run in their past nine games.

They did beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 Saturday afternoon to snap a two-game losing skid, so there is still hope for Coyotes to do damage later on in the season. Nashville has 51 points and would be the final Wild Card team if the playoffs started today, Arizona sits with 47.

But when looking at the players who are at the forefront of the turnaround, there are three who standout from the rest.

Clayton Keller

Feb 26, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes right wing Clayton Keller shoots the puck against the Nashville Predators in the second period at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No surprise here, the best player on the team cracks the list.

After falling behind a point-per-game a few weeks ago, Clayton Keller is on the cusp of reaching that plateau once again after recording 10 points in his last seven games.

Through 44 contests, Keller leads the Coyotes with 19 goals, and 41 points in 44 contests. He is tied with Matias Maccelli for assists (22).

While his plus/minus is sitting at -14 and he has made costly turnovers time to time, it doesn’t take away from his impact in a Kachina sweater.

As he has not missed a single game this season in a ‘Yotes roster that has been hampered with injuries, Keller remains the key contributor the Coyotes need if they want to play past the middle of April.

Due to his efforts, he will be heading to his fourth All-Star game, the most out of anyone in Coyotes franchise history.

Sean Durzi

Nov 25, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Arizona Coyotes defenseman Sean Durzi (50) skates against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since swapping Hollywood for the valley, Sean Durzi has been a revelation on defense.

With 22:14 average time-on-ice, he has been the No. 1 option that has exceeded the Coyotes’ expectations.

Scoring seven goals and stacking up 20 assists this season, he already has 27 points in 38 games. Durzi is 11 points away from his career high, 38 last season.

Moving from the second or third pair with the Los Angeles Kings to the catalyst of Arizona’s defense, Durzi has adapted to his change of scenery and upgraded role.

Not only has he showcased what he can do as an offensive defenseman, but he is slowly creeping towards the two-way label as Durzi has been improving in his own end exponentially.

So far this season, he has blocked 80 shots and continues to have his stick in the right place at the right time when interrupting passing lanes.

And to think, acquiring Durzi only took a second round pick in a trade to the Kings last summer…

Connor Ingram

Nov 28, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona Coyotes goalie Connor Ingram (39) stops a shot on goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first period at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With Durzi and Keller, they have shined personally, but have not been the main reason why the ‘Yotes are knocking on the doors of a playoff spot.

Guarding Arizona’s net, Connor Ingram has taken the opportunity the Coyotes have awarded him as the starting goaltender and has ran with it.

Posting a 16-9-1 recording, 2.49 goals-against average and .919 save percentage, Ingram made his case that he should be in the conversation for an All-Star selection. However, his name was not selected on the list of 44 players heading to the event.

Ingram’s positioning, aggressiveness at the top of the crease and size have all been attributes he has utilized to his advantage.

It could be argued that he could be even better statistically, but Ingram does not receive offensive support in the majority of the defeats in which he has suffered,

The NHL Trade Deadline is coming up and there may be new additions or subtractions made to the Coyotes roster, but Ingram’s play this season will keep giving Arizona a fighting chance going forward no matter what.

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Alec Cipollini is a reporter of the Arizona Coyotes and Cardinals for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his X account @AlecCipollini

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