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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

By: Chad Lynch

After a lengthy break for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, the Phoenix Coyotes were back on the ice this week, shaking off the rust and gearing up for a late-season push towards the playoffs.

"I don't know if it is good to get away for that long, but it was a nice break and it is certainly good to get back out on the ice," said Coyotes Center Mike Ricci.

While many of the Coyotes players used the time off to spend with their families and stayed in the Valley, some like defenseman Zbynek Michalek had their sights set on a more tropical destination.

"I was able to go to Hawaii for seven days," said Michalek. 

Also making the trip to the island state was Zbynek's brother, Milan Michalek, who plays for the San Jose Sharks.  Ironically, the Michalek brothers spent very little time talking about hockey.

"We really didn't talk about it at all," said Zbynek Michalek.  "I think we only saw two periods of one Olympic game and that was it for hockey on the vacation."

Now back in Phoenix, Michalek and the rest of the Coyotes are re-focusing on the task at hand and their next game against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, March 2nd.  However, after such a long break, the Coyotes coaching staff knows that getting back into game shape will require the players to hit the ice nearly everyday until the season resumes.

"I would say we are in good shape right now," said Coyotes Associate Coach Barry Smith.  "We know that we have some work to do to get back to where we need to be in terms of conditioning and there is only one way to do it and that is by going to work."

Coyotes Defenseman Derek Morris has begun skating on his own after having ankle surgery last December.

"It is getting better everyday, " said Morris.  "I am skating about 20-30 minutes each day and easing back into it.  I feel like I'm making progress."

While Morris is elated just to be back on the ice and getting closer to seeing game action, the inability to help his team on the ice over the last two month has been nearly unbearable.

"It is more than frustrating not being able to get out there," said Morris.  "I went through it when I first got hurt and now I am feeling it again.  I just want to get back on the ice with the guys and contribute."

After Team Germany failed to qualify for the Quarterfinals of the 2006 winter Olympics, defenseman Dennis Seidenberg immediately left Torino, Italy and returned to Phoenix to practice with the Coyotes.

After taking a return flight on Wednesday, Seidenberg was back on the ice Thursday.

After the heavily favored Team Canada was knocked out of the Olympic tournament on Wednesday, several players within the Coyotes locker room were just as shocked as the millions who had pegged the Canadians to win their second consecutive gold medal.

"I never expected that.  I am shocked, but the other teams played well and you can't take that away from them." - Coyotes Defenseman Derek Morris

"Obviously it is a tough way to leave the tournament, but they just couldn't get the big goal when they needed it." - Coyotes Left Wing Tyson Nash

"It's unfortunate, they were knocked out, but they had some trouble scoring goals and in a tournament like the Olympics, that can make things tough." - Coyotes Center Mike Ricci

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