Antoine Roussel's hard-nosed, gritty style important for Coyotes, coach says

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The goal that Antoine Roussel scored on Saturday night in the Coyotes' 3-2 loss to Dallas was indicative of the kind of player he is.

The Coyotes didn't give up on puck possession in the Stars' end, and Roussel was trying to provide a screen in front of Dallas goalie Braden Holtby as Anton Stralman's shot headed for the crease. Teammate Loui Eriksson was there, too, getting a deflection that sent the puck into the air for Roussel to bat it down into the net.

A "greasy" goal, as hockey players call such successful plays earned through hard work, and Roussel has been a high-effort player who hopes he has found the offense that has largely been missing from his game this season.

Roussel is one of the new Coyotes who arrived in the offseason in the trade that sent he, Eriksson and Jay Beagle to Arizona for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland and Vancouver's first-round draft pick in July., plus other future draft picks.

"The start of the season wasn't the way I wanted it," said Roussel, who has two goals in 17 games this season. "I feel better. I play with good players. Loui has 600 points in this league, almost. It's a smart player to play with, I always like to play with him. And obviously 'Zinger' (Ryan Dzingel), he's just a smart player, also. It fits my game well to play with two guys that have patience and play well with the puck."

Roussel has been playing on the wing with Dzingel at center and Eriksson on the other side in the Coyotes' third line. Veterans Roussel and Eriksson haven't provided consistent offensive numbers, but Coyotes head coach André Tourigny said he likes their identity and they bring a lot to the team.

Arizona Coyotes left wing Antoine Roussel (26) skates with the puck against Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (22) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Oilers won 5-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Coyotes left wing Antoine Roussel (26) skates with the puck against Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (22) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Oilers won 5-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

"They know who they are, what they have to do to be successful, and they bring that to the team every night, so they're important players for us," Tourigny said.

Roussel is second on the Coyotes in penalty minutes with 35, one behind designated fight specialist Liam O'Brien. He's not one to back away from such situations if it can bring energy to the team when it's needed.

Roussel's offensive production has declined since the 2018-2019 season when he totaled 31 points for Vancouver, but the 32-year-old winger is used to being overlooked. Undrafted after his family left France and moved to Quebec when he was 16, Roussel has carved out a role as a gritty player, a style that developed as a youth rugby player in Europe.

He doesn't sound discouraged about his point total.

"You always have to adjust and look for details that you can always work on your game and try to do better things. If you do over and over the things that don't work, it's not a good recipe to stay in this league," Roussel said. "You always have to re-adjust, evaluate yourself."

Up next

The Coyotes, 4-15-2 going into Monday's game at Winnipeg, play the back end of their fifth back-to-back set of games Tuesday night in Minnesota against the Wild. Minnesota (14-6-1) leads the Central Division and has won three straight games. Arizona lost to Minnesota 5-2 on Nov. 10 at Gila River Arena, the first meeting of the season between the two teams. Coyotes F Phil Kessel leads the team with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 30 career games against the Wild. Minnesota has a seven-game winning streak overall against the Coyotes.

Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Coyotes' Antoine Roussel brings an edge to team play, seeking more offense