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Chayka: Grueling Schedule is Good Test for Coyotes

Arizona is tackling a stretch of road games vs. elite teams this week

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

ST. LOUIS -- The Coyotes did not practice Wednesday as they manage a grueling three-game road trip that has them playing three elite teams in four nights this week. After back-to-back games vs. Washington and Pittsburgh, Arizona's next task is a matchup vs. the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. The Blues, by the way, lead the NHL with 25 points and are 6-1-0 at the Scottrade Center.

"A lot of teams have tough schedules," Coyotes General Manager John Chayka told the team's flagship radio station, Arizona Sports Station 98.7 FM. "I think ours is especially tough, but some years it's tough and some years it's easy. We're in a tough stretch right now and we need guys to persevere and come through. That's easier said than done. I'm not even on the ice playing, but you feel it. It's a good test and our guys are hanging around, sticking with it, and we're doing some good things. Overall the group is coming together."

With Antti Raanta back from a lower-body injury and newcomer Scott Wedgewood playing well in a backup role, the Coyotes have cemented their goaltending, which failed them miserably in the first three weeks of the season.

"We just got our starting goalie back and we're now 2-3-1 in our last six games," Chayka said. "We're trying to stabilize things, move forward, and find solutions to improve our team and get better." 

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson ranks second on the team with 10 points, but he's socred just two goals on 42 shots and is minus-12. Chayka said he's not concerned with those stats, and that recent trade rumors involving Ekman-Larsson are ridiculous.

"Oliver is the one consistent in terms of being a high-level player," Chayka said. "He's a star player in this league and you win with stars and build around stars. He's a guy that's stuck with it the whole way. He's never once complained to me or talked about greener pastures. I think he's dug in."

Chayka said playing minus injured defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper-body injury) and Jakob Chychrun (lower-body injury) has proven to be challenging for the Coyotes. Both players are on the injure-reserve list.

"We're never going to be totally healthy, but losing those two guys (at the same time) makes a big difference on our back end," Chayka said. 

Regarding Chychrun's recovery, Chayka said it's progressing nicely and that he may travel with the team to practice on next week's road trip to Winnipeg and then three cities in eastern Canada.

"He's kind of going through his own training camp right now," Chayka said. "Realistically, the knee is less the issue. It's more about getting his strength, his timing, his conditioning and getting to a point where when he gets back he's ready to go and he's prepared both mentally and physically. We're not going to rush him. We're going to take our time with him and do it right. We're going to make sure he's in the best possible position when he gets back." 

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LISTEN: Chayka on Arizona Sports Station 98.7 FM

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