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Posted On Saturday, 04.12.2014 / 4:19 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Visentin set for NHL debut in net for Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes have been eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention and the San Jose Sharks are locked into postseason position. That will make for plenty of lineup flexibility as the Coyotes open a season-ending two-game homestand against the Sharks Saturday.

The Coyotes sat and watched the Dallas Stars eliminate them Friday with a 3-0 win against the St. Louis Blues. Phoenix has lost six straight games (0-3-3) including a 2-0 loss Thursday against the Nashville Predators that cost the Coyotes control of their destiny.

"You've got to go out there, play games and play well. We're going to put some young players in and give them some experience, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "It's very disappointing, the situation that we're in. We're going to have to go out there and try to get better.

The changes will begin in goal. Top prospect Mark Visentin will make his NHL debut Saturday. He has been serving as the backup to Thomas Greiss since starter Mike Smith went down with a knee injury Mar. 24. Tippett said that Smith, who has been practicing with the aid of a knee brace in hopes of returning, is now done for the season.

"He's got a great attitude, he works hard and we're going to give him a chance to play tonight," Tippett said of Visentin. "He's prepared well he's had a lot of practice time with (goalie coach Sean Burke) and I think he'll go on there and play well for us."

Posted On Friday, 04.04.2014 / 4:29 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes focused on taking care of business

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes continue to get some help from those around them in the Western Conference wild-card race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sooner or later, though, they're going to have to help themselves.

The Coyotes remain even in points with the Dallas Stars for the final wild-card spot despite collecting one point in the past three games. They return home to face the Edmonton Oilers on Friday with two goal in the past three games and in need of a win, as much for their self-confidence as their place in the standings.

The Stars lost 4-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and hold a game in hand. Phoenix and Dallas will meet in the final game of the season April 13 here.

"We have to take care of ourselves," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "You watch other scores and everyone knows what's going on, but it's meaningless if you don't take care of your own business. You have to keep your fate in your own hands."

Posted On Tuesday, 04.01.2014 / 3:52 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes' Moss game-time decision against Jets

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes forward David Moss took part in an optional skate Tuesday morning and coach Dave Tippett said Moss will be a game-time decision Tuesday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

Moss sustained an ankle injury against the New Jersey Devils on March 27 and missed the 3-1 loss against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. If Moss can't play, Tippett will likely stick with the same lineup up front and play center Mike Ribeiro, who has been a healthy scratch in two of the past three games.

Goalie Mike Smith skated on Monday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury on March 24 and was back on the ice in full equipment Tuesday before the team skate. Smith was able to do some side-to-side drills in the net and Tippett was happy to see his No. 1 goaltender back on the ice. Smith is to be re-evaluated on Friday and his status has not changed.

"He continues to move along like we'd hoped," Tippett said.

Posted On Saturday, 03.29.2014 / 2:56 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes' Smith to be re-evaluated next week

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith won't be on the ice to test his lower-body injury until at least the end of next week, but coach Dave Tippett is hoping he will be able to return to the lineup before the end of the regular season.

Smith, who was injured late in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Monday, is back to working out off the ice and will have his injury re-evaluated at the end of the week.

Tippett said he was very optimistic Smith would return before the end of the season. The Coyotes have eight games remaining, including Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild.

Goalie Thomas Greiss will make his third straight start against the Wild. The teams hold the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and are separated by one point.

Posted On Saturday, 03.22.2014 / 4:14 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes keep riding goaltender Smith in playoff chase

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If the Phoenix Coyotes are going to regroup and squeeze their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, goaltender Mike Smith is going to have to regain the form that carried them to the Western Conference Final in 2012.

For the past 15 games, Smith has looked the part. After half a season of inconsistent and frustrating play, Smith has a 1.86 goals-against average and .937 save percentage since Feb. 7 and the Coyotes have responded with seven wins in their past nine games. They now occupy the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Smith will celebrate his 32nd birthday and make his NHL-leading 61st start Saturday against the Boston Bruins. Boston has won 11 straight games and became the first team to top 100 points and clinch a playoff spot when they beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 on Friday.

"I don't think I'd be playing so much if the games weren't so important," said Smith, who has played more minutes and made more saves than any other goalie. "I like to play a lot, especially when you're playing good. You want to be helping the team win games. It's just in our blood, I guess. Once you get into the season, 60 starts is just a number. The body is feeling good now and hopefully I keep feeling well."

Posted On Thursday, 03.20.2014 / 3:28 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Erat's return lets Coyotes assemble all-Czech line

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes finally will have the all-Czech line they envisioned when they acquired forward Martin Erat prior to the NHL Trade Deadline healthy and together when they play against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

Erat, center Martin Hanzal and right wing Radim Vrbata all took part in practice Wednesday for the first time since Phoenix traded for Erat on March 4. Hanzal was out with a lower-body injury at the time of the trade. By the time he returned, Erat had sustained a head injury.

Now the trio is intact, allowing Coyotes coach Dave Tippett to shuffle the lines in search of more offensive punch. Hanzal was a physical force in his return to the lineup, a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, which moved Phoenix past the Dallas Stars into the second wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference.

Tippett warned against expectations of instant chemistry.

"Let's get the line out there, see how they work out," he said. "Obviously they understand each other and understand how they play. But sometimes it takes a while to get going."

Posted On Saturday, 03.15.2014 / 4:09 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes could be without defenseman Michalek

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek was unable to take part in the morning skate but coach Dave Tippett is hoping he will be able to play against the Calgary Flames on Saturday .

"If he can find a way to play, he'll play," Tippett said

Michalek took a shot off the lower body in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. With David Schlemko in a walking boot after blocking a shot last week, the Coyotes will play rookie defenseman Brandon Gormley against the Flames if Michalek can't.

Posted On Thursday, 03.06.2014 / 3:10 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Coyotes counting on Erat to provide spark

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New Phoenix Coyotes forward Martin Erat has scored one goal this season and news of his acquisition at the NHL Trade Deadline barely registered around the League compared to some of the other big names changing addresses Wednesday.

But the Coyotes are hoping that adding Erat from the Washington Capitals will have a ripple effect when the team makes a final push for a Western Conference playoff spot. That push begins Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens at Arena.

The Coyotes had an optional skate Thursday and coach Dave Tippett wouldn't say who he plans to play Erat with in his Phoenix debut. That might depend on whether center Martin Hanzal, who missed the 1-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and hasn't skated since, can play against Montreal.

Erat would make sense as a partner for fellow Czech forwards Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. The players know each other well, and Erat's pass-first mentality (23 assists) would give Hanzal and Vrbata the element they have been missing since Ray Whitney left as a free agent after the 2011-12 season.

Posted On Sunday, 03.02.2014 / 6:01 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Miller, Ott to make Blues debuts vs. Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ryan Miller is 6-1-1 lifetime against the Phoenix Coyotes with a 1.15 goals-against average. He's already beaten them twice this season and that was with the struggling Buffalo Sabres.

Miller and veteran Steve Ott make their respective debuts with the St. Louis Blues on Sunday and Miller will again face the Coyotes. But he's going to need a little help from his new teammates to complete the hat trick against Phoenix.

The Blues weren't shut out for the first 57 games of the regular season, but back-to-back 1-0 losses to the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks coming out of the break have them searching for offense.

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, however, isn't looking to change much other than a little luck.

"I think the concern for us is getting a reward for playing well," he said. "We've come out of the gate and played two really good hockey games and got no reward for it. I think we want to start getting a reward."

Posted On Friday, 02.07.2014 / 10:21 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - Road to Sochi blog

'Miracle on Ice' team members salute 2014 Olympians

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 15 members of the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes who will take part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics were given a rousing sendoff at Arena on Friday, with 10 members of the 1980 United States "Miracle on Ice" team leading the way.

Beginning with Kurt Russell's recreation of coach Herb Brooks' famous USA-Soviet Union pregame speech from the movie "Miracle" and continuing with Aerosmith's iconic "Dream On," 10 members of the gold medal winning team were introduced to a sellout crowd that recreated the "U-S-A!, U-S-A!" chant that echoed through the mountains of Lake Placid 34 years ago.

The 10 team members, Beginning with sniper Neal Broten and ending with captain Mike Eruzione, donned their red, white and blue jerseys again and lined up at center ice before the five Phoenix and 10 Chicago Olympians were introduced to the crowd. Broten and Eruzione were joined by Steve Janaszak, Rob McClanahan, Ken Morrow, Buzz Schneider, Dave Silk, Bob Suter, Phil Verchota and Mark Wells.

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