GLENDALE – Three-plus weeks into the season, the Coyotes rank second in the NHL in goals scored (40) with a score-by-committee approach.
A closer look reveals that defensemen are making key contributions offensively. Ten of the team’s goals have been scored by blueliners; goalie Mike Smith has even chipped in one.
In Saturday’s game, the Coyotes got four goals from defensemen - a first for the franchise since it moved to Phoenix in 1996 – in a 5-4 win over Edmonton.
And it’s not just goals. Coyotes defenders are assisting on goals in impressive numbers. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is leading the way with nine points (three goals, six assists). Only Montreal’s P.K. Subban had more points among NHL defensemen before Sunday’s games.
Keith Yandle (one goal, seven assists) and Derek Morris (two goals, five assists) are close behind Ekman-Larsson with eight and seven points, respectively.
On the flip side, the Coyotes have allowed 38 goals in 12 games, and Head Coach Dave Tippett is concerned.
“Our game is going to have to get better,” Tippett said after Saturday’s game. “Don’t get me wrong, I like winning. Any time you can win, you should have a smile on your face. But I look at it (as) how are we going to win long-term? There’s just some things that need to improve if we’re going to win long-term.”
He added, “I like scoring goals (and) I like some of the plays we’re making. But I don’t like us giving up four or five (goals) a night because you’re not going to win in this league like that… That's a recipe for disaster.”
| Hanzal |
• Center Martin Hanzal will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Monday for a hit he delivered to Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry on Saturday.
Hanzal received a two-minute minor for charging on the play, which occurred at 13:42 of the first period
Hanzal ranks second on the team in scoring after a dozen games with 11 points (five goals, six assists).
“He’s worked hard in front of the net,” Tippett said. “After practice, he works hard deflecting a lot of pucks, figuring out where he needs to be to screen the goalie or get rebounds, those kinds of things. He’s done a real good job there.”
• Forward Tim Kennedy played with Hanzal and winger Radim Vrbata in Saturday’s win and he assisted on David Schlemko's second-period goal. It was his third assist in five games with the Coyotes.
Kennedy was recalled form the American Hockey League for a second time last week after forward Lauri Korpikoski was placed on the injured-reserve list because of an upper-body injury.
• Meanwhile, defenseman Rostislav Klesla missed Saturday’s game because of a lower-body injury and is considered day to day.
• Center Jeff Halpern left Saturday’s game in the first period because of spasms and did not return.
“We’ll see where everybody is on Monday,” Tippett said. “I think the day off (on Sunday) will do everybody a lot of good.”