Photo Credit: Norm Hall & Getty Images
In the National Hockey League, the last line of defense is a team's goaltender. Most clubs in the NHL would jump at the chance to have two solid goaltenders with NHL experience to start the season. For the Phoenix Coyotes, the question this season is not if they will have two qualified goaltenders, but rather which two they will have.
With training camp underway, the Coyotes are trying to narrow four goaltenders down to two, but the skill, character and play of each netminder is only proving how deep Phoenix is in goal and making the decision even tougher.
"I think we've got a great group this year," said Coyotes Goaltending Coach & five-time Stanley Cup winner Grant Fuhr. "From top to bottom, it's a very talented group and it's going to be fun this year because there is going to be competition for spots, which make it very interesting for me."
Leading the group is starting goaltender Curtis Joseph. Last season, in his first with the Coyotes, Joseph led the Coyotes with 32 wins and re-established himself as one of the elite net minders in the game. This year, "Cujo" comes into camp as the clear number-one goalie and veteran member of the group.
After splitting time between Phoenix and San Antonio last season, David LeNeveu will challenge for the back-up role again in 2006-07. In his first year of NHL hockey, LeNeveu posted a 3-8-0 record with a 3.24 goals-against average.
Also returning from last season is Philippe Sauve. Having spent the last three seasons playing in the NHL, Sauve has the experience the Coyotes are looking for and the eagerness to compete for a roster spot.
"You have to get excited with an opportunity like this," said Sauve. "I like having the challenge and since I turned pro, it's always been a battle for jobs. This is just one more and I feel comfortable in that situation."
Rounding out the group is goaltender Mike Morrison, who posted an 11-4-0 record last season with the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators. Signed as a free agent during the off-season, Morrison is a strong candidate to make the roster this season and even push Joseph for playing time.
With such a talented and experienced group of goalies, there is little doubt that the most interesting roster battles in this season's training camp will come from the goaltenders.
"There's plenty of talent and it's going to be a battle," said Morrison. "We all know each other very well and we know the competition that lies ahead of us and we welcome it. Plus, I think we all see the opportunity here.
"It's a spot were all vying for and hope to get to further our careers."
Each netminder will also be pushed, knowing that everyday is chance to shine and with less than three weeks until the start of the season, everyone has to be on top of their game.
"It's going to be a dog-fight and you just have to be ready," said Sauve. "Everyday is an opportunity to shine and you just have to be ready to prove you belong here."