Jordan Oesterle will enter Thursday’s home game vs. St. Louis looking to extend a career-high five-game point streak.
On Tuesday night in Vegas, the left-shot defenseman scored a key power-play goal to trigger a five-goal outburst in a critical win that moved Arizona within four points of a Western Conference playoff berth.
Oesterle, 26, has notched 12 of his 19 points this season over his past 15 games. Four of those points have been goals, and with six total he ranks second only to Oliver Ekman-Larsson in goals scored by a defenseman this season. His 11.3 shooting percentage leads Arizona’s defensemen by a wide margin.
“Obviously you don’t want to label yourself as being only an offensive defensive or a defensive defenseman,” Oesterle said after Wednesday’s practice. “I want to be able to play in all situations, and I think I can help out in all situations. The success lately has been nice, but I think I just need to continue to work hard and play the right way. It’s such a long season, and a lot of ebbs and flows will come, but I’ll try to take this confidence and run with it.”
Oesterle is getting comfortable playing for the Coyotes and it shows.
“He’s been playing very well,” said Assistant Coach Scott Allen, who manages the defensemen. “He came from Chicago, and prior to that he was with Edmonton. We do things differently here in regards to our system and even our individual play in certain situations, so, with that being said, it takes time to adjust and he’s adjusted very well and adapted very well. You can see that in the results we’re getting now.”
Oesterle’s plus/minus rating is zero. Last season, he was -11 in 55 games with the Blackhawks.
“That’s where he’s made the most progress,” Allen said of Oesterle’s play in the defensive zone. “The offensive game comes to him more natural, but you don’t get a chance to be offensive if you can’t defend first and foremost. Again, he’s making progress and we like the direction he’s headed.”
The Coyotes acquired Oesterle, an undrafted blueliner out of Western Michigan University, in a trade with Chicago last off-season. He has played 47 of 56 games this season, and is averaging 18:56 per game. A closer look reveals he played at least 20 minutes in nine of his past 11 games.
“He’s really improved from the beginning of the year,” Head Coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’s producing for us … He’s got a really underrated shot. He’s on the ice every day 20 minutes before the team starts, and he’s practicing his shot and it’s paying dividends. I’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that.”
Oesterle has been paired with several defensemen this season, but recently he and Kevin Connauton have played together.
“I think we have some good chemistry on and off the ice,” Oesterle said. “He’s a great guy to learn from. Earlier this year, I kind of veered off in his direction because we’re both Western Michigan guys, and he was great and gave me some good advice about playing here.”
Connauton, who played in his 300th NHL game on Tuesday, has enjoyed being paired with Oesterle lately.
“He’s a good skater and a good puck mover, and we’ve been complementing each other well,” Connauton said. “We talk well and we’re starting to get a good feel for where each other is going to be in terms of going back for pucks and making the clean breakouts. It’s been a good fit.”
Oesterle grew up in Dearborn Heights, Mich., a fan of the Red Wings and Nicklas Lidstrom. Later, he started admiring other NHL defensemen such as Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang.
Competing for the Coyotes this season has been a rewarding experience, he said.
“I love playing for this team and playing for our coaches,” Oesterle said. “Being with this organization has been good for me. Coming into a younger team, it lets you grow with everybody and I feel I’ve done that here. We all give each other confidence and want each other to have success and make plays and produce. I’m very comfortable here.”