The Phoenix Coyotes are in the middle of a three game road trip in Canada where they play Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in a five-day span. With a 3-1 victory on Wednesday over the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Yotes have now won four straight and are right in the thick of things in the Western Conference.
Before heading up to Canada, Coyotes defensemen Keith Yandle spoke on the importance of continuing to play well as they make their way through this difficult Canadian road trip.
“It’s going to be a good challenge and hopefully we can rise together as a team and take it head on. …It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
The two main reasons for the four game winning streak the Coyotes are currently on can be attributed to goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and the play of the forwards.
Over his last three games Bryzgalov has made 31, 35 and 39 saves respectively. He ranks second in the NHL in total saves with 491 and has been the only constant this season for the Yotes. Night in and night out Bryzgalov has been one of the best players on the ice, and quite frankly needs to be with the lack of defensive experience he has in front of him.
Right now the Coyotes are playing defenseman Nolan Yonkman, who is 6’6 and 250lbs. Yonkman made his Coyotes debut Wednesday night, playing in his first NHL game since the 2005-06 season. 23- year old defensemen David Schlemko has also struggled early this season, while rookie Olive Ekman-Larsson was sent down to the Coyotes AHL affiliate, San Antonio last week.
Along with the superb play of Bryzgalov the Coyotes forwards have been the second biggest reason for the Yotes four game winning streak. Last Friday against the Flames at Jobing.Com Arena center Vernon Fiddler recorded his first career hat trick, as the Coyotes escaped some late sloppy play to come away with a 5-4 victory. The very next night winger Ray Whitney registered the fourth Coyotes’ hat trick this season (Ed Jovanovski, Lee Stempniak) and added two assists in a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Whitney, who had struggled early this season due to a hand injury, feels as though he is as healthy as he has been all season and is relived to finally be able to contribute offensively.
“There were five or six games where I questioned whether I should be in the lineup at all,” said Whitney. I wasn’t quite looking at it as fourteen games (without scoring a goal) I did the best I could. It was starting to weigh on me, but we were getting points and it’s still an adjustment for me individually.”
The team is playing its best hockey of the season and with captain Shane Doan expected to be back from a lower back injury Sunday when the Coyotes take on the Vancouver Canucks, the Yotes should be running on all cylinders for the first time all season.
About the Author
Written by Robb Patty