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High Five

Posted By Doug Podkowsky On Feb 12 2012 @ 10:39 pm In Phoenix Coyotes | No Comments

PHX – 3    CHI – 0    F

On the night when the Phoenix Coyotes organization honored one of the greatest players in franchise history, the current team put forth an effort worth remembering. During an emotional pregame ceremony, the Coyotes welcomed Jeremy Roenick to the Ring of Honor and retired his #97 jersey.

Roenick, a longtime Blackhawk, was traded to the Coyotes in the 1996 before their inaugural game in Phoenix.  After establishing himself as a superstar over his first 8 seasons in Chicago, the Blackhawks dealt the center who they thought was past his prime.  He proved them wrong by playing 13 more seasons, 6 of them in Phoenix.  During his tenure with the Coyotes, he amassed 152 goals and 237 assists (389 points), which is good for 4th all-time among Coyotes.

The Coyotes had so much in their favor entering Saturday’s game, the Chicago Blackhawks never had a chance. The crowd at Jobing.com Arena, which was over capacity, was rocking by the end of Roenick’s ceremony. In addition, the Coyotes were riding a season-high four game winning streak, while the Blackhawks were in the midst of their own 7-game skid. The Coyotes took advantage of the energy in the building and jumped all over Chicago. Coyotes captain Shane Doan set the tone to what would be a very physical night, with a huge hit on Brent Seabrook a minute into the game. With the crowd still on their feet, the excitement level was turned up a few notches 30 seconds later when Kyle Chipchura dropped his gloves and dropped Chicago’s Andrew Shaw to the ice. Less than two minutes later and with the noise already at fever pitch, Radim Vrbata forced a turnover in the Chicago end and executed a perfect give-and-go with Ray Whitney. The standing-room only crowd at Jobing.com Arena exploded as Vrbata’s wraparound attempt took a fortunate bounce off Blackhawks’ defenseman Sami Lepisto and found the back of the net. Everything was going Phoenix’s way, and less than three minutes later another fortunate bounce found it’s way to Boyd Gordon’s stick at the side of the net and he buried it giving the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get better for the Coyotes, Mike Smith showed up with his best game of the year. After a high-flying first period in which the Coyotes dominated and outshot the Blackhawks, Chicago outshot Phoenix 28-14 the rest of the way. Smith was nothing short of brilliant while killing off three power play opportunities and making 38 total saves for his third shutout on the season. Kyle Chipchura notched his 2nd goal of the year late in the 2nd period to give the game its final 3-0 score.

Defense continues to be the name of the game for the Coyotes. Despite giving up 38 shots Saturday, good positioning forced a lot of those shots to come from the outside. Strong backchecking, blocked shots and punishing hits were also all on display by the Phoenix defensemen who are led by veteran Keith Yandle.

Yandle was quick to spread the credit around, though. “The forwards did a great job of helping us out. Overall this was a great team effort, but we know we have to keep playing at a high level to stay in the playoff picture.”

That picture has the Los Angles Kings in 7th place, 3 points ahead of the Coyotes. The Coyotes play the Kings twice in the next four games, so hold onto your hats. This is about to get really interesting.

Coyotes Notes:

Ray Whitney extends his point-scoring streak to 8 games. He has 15 points (2G, 13A) in his last 10 games. He also recorded his 35th assist and 51st point to lead the Coyotes in those categories

Radim Vrbata scored his team-leading 26th goal of the year

This was the Coyotes 3rd sellout and had the highest paid attendance of the season

Mike Smith was the game’s top star for the fourth consecutive game. He has stopped 151 of the last 157 shots he has faced

Kyle Chipchra was awarded the game’s second star with a goal, 5 hits and a fighting major (1 assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick).  He is currently on a 3-game point scoring streak

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