The Phoenix Coyotes played 4 games over this past week and finished an uninspiring 1-2-1, rounding out an October that placed the team one game below .500, at 3-4-3. Certainly the 2010-2011 Coyotes are a far cry from the team that finished last season in 4th place overall in the NHL's Western Conference. The good news, if there is much, is that the Coyotes have not been playing with what would be considered their full starting roster. Shutdown center Martin Hanzal has been out of action for the past 6 games, but is set to return on Wednesday against Nashville. Captain Shane Doan completed his 3 game suspension for a blind side hit and returned to the lineup, but has yet to score a goal. Derek Morris has missed several games with the ever-ambiguous "lower-body injury" and key free agent acquisition Ray Whitney has yet to produce as everyone believes he is capable. All of these things should, theoretically, improve.
The lone bright spot of the week was Thursday night’s road affair in Detroit, that saw the Desert Dogs dispatch of the Red Wings 4-2, blitzkrieging the Wings during the first 20 minutes while jumping out to a 3-0 lead and then holding on for dear life over the next 40 minutes while Ilya Bryzgalov turned aside 43 shots en route to the win. The Coyotes did not fare nearly as well in Eastern Canada where they took losses to Montreal (in overtime) and Ottawa. A return to home ice on Saturday against Tampa Bay was one of the teams poorer showings as they were shut out 3-0.
Coach Tippett has stressed a need for consistency and that will require some players to step up and start producing. Wojtek Wolski, one of GM Don Maloney’s deadline acquisitions from a year ago has been a healthy scratch over the past 2 games because he has been fairly invisible on the ice. Players like Wolski, Lee Stempniak, Scottie Upshall and Radim Vrbata need to put this team on their collective backs and start getting it done in the offensive end. Some improved play from the blue line certainly will help that cause, and there are signs that Keith Yandle is starting to pick up his play in a big way with a few goals over the past week.
Yandle was also the recipient of a somewhat controversial knee-on-knee hit in the last game against Tampa Bay as he collided with Pavel Kubina while coming into the offensive zone. Shane Doan took exception to Kubina’s dangerous hit and "fought" with Kubina, much to Yandle’s satisfaction. Hopefully this will become a rallying moment for a team that needs to turn its fortunes around and quickly in the very competitive Western Conference.
This week, the Coyotes play Wednesday in Glendale against Nashville (5-2-3 this year), on Friday at Dallas (6-4-0) and then right back on Saturday in Glendale to face Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins (6-5-1). It will be a tough week, with all three teams off to decent starts, but a strong showing is necessary if the Coyotes are to get back on track to build off of last season.