Through the first six games of the 2005-06 preseason, Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky has been less concerned with wins and loses and more concerned with developing a strong club that fits into the Coyotes new system. The process has been a gradual one and as the Coyotes prepare for their final two preseason games, Gretzky is ready to see his club develop a sense of urgency for winning.
"We have made progress in every aspect of our game this preseason," said Gretzky, "Now I want to see the players develop a sense of urgency towards our ultimate goal, which is winning. Close is not good enough for this franchise and while it is only exhibition and everything is new again next Wednesday, we need to start understanding that when the regular season begins, the guys who are committed to winning are the ones that are going to play."
Gretzky also stressed the fact that no one individual will come before the betterment of the team and if the Coyotes are going to reach their potential this season, they will need to accept nothing short of winning.
"It is a huge part of our team identity that we strive to win every night out," said Gretzky. "When we can look each other in the eye and demand the best effort from one another, we will be a tough team to beat."
While there are only a couple of preseason games remaining, Gretzky is confident that the Coyotes will develop a heightened sense of urgency right away.
"Recently, we talked about the need to improve our penalty killing and we saw a significant improvement there on Wednesday night," said Gretzky. "But that was a situation where we were dealing with an X's and O's issue. Now we are moving into a mentality issue and I think that the guys we have will commit to that right away."
LENEVEU TO START FRIDAY
Coyotes goaltender David LeNeveu will start his second game of the preseason when he starts Friday night in San Jose. After serving in a back-up role to Curtis Joseph during the last four games, LeNeveu is excited to get back in the crease.
"I am looking forward to getting out there again," said LeNeveu. "As a goaltender you practice a lot during the week but you can only prove so much in practice. You really show what you are made of when the games roll around and it is all on the line. I think Friday will be a good opportunity for me."
With Brian Boucher still recovering from a preseason groin injury, it is likely that LeNeveu will begin the season in Phoenix alongside Joseph. A promotion the young netminder has worked hard to obtain.
"I have really tried to prepare myself as well as I could for training camp this year," said LeNeveu. "I have tried to do everything that has been asked of me and try to prove to the coaching staff that I am capable of playing at the NHL level. So far I think it has worked out very well and hopefully Friday will be the next step in the process."
DEREK MORRIS UPDATE
During Wednesday's game against San Jose, Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris left the game in the third period with a minor hip injury. Morris did not return to the game and did not participate in on-ice drills on Thursday.
"Derek has been a tremendous player for us this entire preseason," said Gretzky. "He has demonstrated a desire to become more of a leader both on and off the ice and he has done that. Last night was a situation where he tweaked his hip a little bit mid-way through the third period and I felt it was more important to let him go ahead and get some treatment on it rather than risk a serous injury.
Morris will not play in San Jose on Friday and his status for Saturday's home game against Anaheim is undecided.
"I will wait and see where he is at on Saturday before making a decision," said Gretzky. "If he is ready, I will go ahead and play him. Otherwise he will wait until next Wednesday.
TYSON NASH UPDATE
Coyotes forward Tyson Nash, who was scratched from Wednesday's game against San Jose because of a minor wrist injury, will likely remain out of the line up for the final two exhibition games in order to be fully healthy on Opening Night.
"He has a minor injury and I will definitely hold him out of Friday's game," said Gretzky. "I will probably hold him out of Saturday's game (against Anaheim), so that he is completely healthy for next Wednesday when we open the season in Vancouver.
BRIAN BOUCHER UPDATE
Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher continues to recover from a groin injury suffered during the first game of the preseason. On Thursday, Boucher worked out at Glendale Arena as he gets closer to making a return to the ice.
"He is doing very well and making great progress every day," said Gretzky. "I hate to say he is day-to-day, but that is essentially what we are dealing with. However, it will probably be at least another week before he returns to the ice."
FRIDAY NIGHT'S LINE UP
The Coyotes travel to San Jose on Friday to face the Sharks for the second time in three nights. The Coyotes will dress the following roster for Friday's game.
David LeNeveu and Curtis Joseph
Paul Mara, David Tanabe, Denis Gauthier, Sean O'Donnell, Keith Ballard, Zbynek Michalek and Matt Jones.
Ladislav Nagy, Krystofer Kolanos, Mike Johnson, Oleg Saprykin, Mike Comrie, Chris McAllister, Boyd Devereaux, Jeff Taffe, Jason Chimera, Petr Nedved and Brett Hull.