On Monday, the Phoenix Coyotes returned to the ice at Glendale Arena as they get ready for the second half of the season, which starts this week.
The first portion of the 2005-06 campaign opened the eyes of hockey enthusiasts around the world as the Coyotes established themselves as a force in the Pacific Division and a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
"As we approach the 41-game mark, by no means are we disappointed with the effort we've gotten, but we know there were a few games that probably got away from us and we know that we need to get better in the second half," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky.
One of the Coyotes strongest attributes this season has been the power play. The offensive freedom given to the players by the coaching staff has paid off with the eighth-best power play in the league as of Monday. Just as impressive as the over-all ranking with the man-advantage, is the fact that Phoenix has done it while dealing with injuries to some of their most prolific offensive threats. In fact, only two players, Shane Doan and Boyd Devereaux, have played in every Coyotes game this season.
"Right now we are dealing with quite a few injuries, but once we get everyone back in the fold and get guys like Petr (Nedved) playing at the level he is capable of playing at, it will certainly help our hockey club," said Gretzky"
Over the first forty games, the Coyotes have benefited from several players stepping up and exceeding preseason expectations. None have done so at the same level, as defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Keith Ballard. Together, the two have helped solidify a Phoenix defense that has continually shut down some of the most potent offensives in the NHL.
"When you look at it, I don't think that anyone would have thought that those two guys would have the made the impact on out team that they have had so far this season," said Gretzky. "They have helped make our whole defensive unit better."
The Coyotes final game of the first half of the season will come on Thursday in Los Angeles.
BUD LIGHT PLAYER PARTY
On Tuesday, January 3rd, the Phoenix Coyotes will take part in the next scheduled Bud Light Player Party.
Tuesday's party will take place at Padre Murphy's located on 43rd Avenue and Bell Road and will feature Coyotes players Tyson Nash and Mike Leclerc.
The event will last from 5:00-6:00 p.m. and is open to the public.
Phoenix forwards Petr Nedved and Dave Scatchard, remain day-to-day and are questionable for Thursday's game in Los Angeles.
Defenseman Keith Ballard was held out of practice on Monday as a precaution after the rookie blueliner experienced some soreness in his knee on Saturday evening.
"It was just a little sore after the Colorado game and we wanted to just get it checked out to make sure everything was fine," said Gretzky.
Ballard is expected to return to practice this week and be ready for Thursday's contest against the Kings.
The Coyotes next game will take place on Thursday night in Los Angeles. The contest will be a radio only broadcast and can be heard on KDUS-1060AM, KDKB-93.3FM or on phoenixcoyotes.com by clicking on the "Listen Live" link in the Game Day section.
NEXT HOME GAME
Phoenix will return home on Sunday, January 8th, when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. The game will be shown on Arizona's Family 3 (TV 3) and can be heard on KDUS-1060AM, KDKB-93.3FM or on phoenixcoyotes.com by clicking on the "Listen Live" link in the Game Day section.