The Phoenix Coyotes hope to get another strong performance in net from recent call-up David LeNeveu, and win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they host the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Phoenix recalled LeNeveu on Thursday to serve as Curtis Joseph’s backup after Mike Morrison went 0-3-0 with a 6.14 goals-against average in that role. But during the Coyotes’ morning skate, coach Wayne Gretzky told LeNevue he would start later that night against Edmonton.
The 23-year-old goalie went out and made 32 saves to help the Coyotes (3-8-0) end a four-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Oilers.
“They call guys up for a reason,” said LeNeveu, who went 3-8-2 with a 3.24 GAA in 15 games with Phoenix last season. “I didn’t put any pressure on myself. Why put any pressure on yourself when you don’t need to? I just came in with all the confidence, tried to play my game and give the team a chance to win. That’s all they can ask.”
Gretzky was so impressed by the performance that he said LeNeveu would start against the Rangers (4-5-0).
“David’s young and he played a good game,” he said. “Why not ride him?”
Gretzky, though, was quick to point out that Joseph was still Phoenix’s No. 1 goalie despite his 2-5-0 record and 3.95 GAA in nine appearances this season.
“One game doesn’t make a career,” Gretzky said. “I’m happy for David, but Curtis is our guy.”
The Coyotes have outscored opponents 17-7 in their three wins, but have been outscored 39-8 in their eight defeats.
“That was long overdue,” Phoenix forward Owen Nolan said about scoring six goals Thursday. “We’ve been struggling the last couple weeks, but hopefully this will start us up again.”
New York also has been struggling with five losses in seven games since opening the season with consecutive victories.
The Rangers had another chance to pick up back-to-back wins Wednesday, but gave up two third-period goals en route to a 4-2 home loss to Florida.
“I still don’t like the way we played,” Rangers star Jaromir Jagr said. “We’re uptight. We’re not loose, for whatever reason. I don’t know why. Maybe we concentrate too much on the defense, we don’t do anything else.”
Jagr has just two goals, but leads the Rangers with 12 assists.
“We just have to play looser and have fun,” he added. “We’re just concentrating on not making a mistake but we have to play hockey. The one good thing is that it’s early in the season and we’ve got time to change it.”
New York has won the last two meetings in this series, but the teams haven’t played since Dec. 29, 2003.
The Rangers continue their four-game road trip Monday with a matchup against Los Angeles, while the Coyotes don’t play again until visiting Anaheim next Friday.