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Coyotes Ready to Embark on Critical Trip

by Anthony Perez / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE -- After a day off on Sunday, the Coyotes returned to the ice for practice on Monday afternoon at Arena in preparation for a six-game stretch of games away from home that begins Wednesday in New Jersey.

The Coyotes, who will depart Phoenix on Tuesday morning, are coming off a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. The consensus among the coaches and players on Monday was that it’s important for them to take the momentum gained from that impressive win with them to the east, where they will play the first four games of the journey before heading to San Jose and Dallas.

“What lies ahead is a great challenge,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s an extended road trip, (and) we feel good about coming off that game Saturday night and the work we put in, but we’re going to go in and every game we’re going to be scratching and clawing and trying to find some points."

Forward Radim Vrbata said the trip could be a season-defining one for the Coyotes, especially in the fiercely contested Western Conference where every point matters.

“It looks like every game is important,” Vrbata said. “When you look at the Western Conference standings it’s pretty tight all the way from top to bottom. This is a trip where we play five games before Christmas and then after Christmas we go on the road again.”

From New Jersey, the Coyotes continue their New York area swing against the Rangers (on Thursday) and Islanders (on Saturday) before visiting Pittsburgh and San Jose before Christmas. After two days back in Phoenix without a game or practice, the stretch of road games concludes on Dec. 26 with a game in Dallas.

Defenseman Keith Yandle said that while this trip is important on the ice, it’ll also be very important off the ice, too.

“I think it’s going to be a big road trip for our team,” Yandle said. “It’ll be a good time to come together and go out for some team dinners and hang out with the guys. I think playing against those teams in the east is a good test for our team.”

Barring a last-minute roster move on Tuesday, the Coyotes will leave for New Jersey with eight defensemen on the roster competing for six spots in the lineup.

“There’s always competition in pro hockey, within yourself,” defenseman Nolan Yonkman said. “I look at it as just keeping what’s in my control of playing my game, and playing the way I can and not worrying about that, and the coaches will make their decisions from there.”

The Coyotes are 8-4-2 away from home. 

“I think we’ve done a good job on the road so far this season,” Vrbata said. “So we just need to keep playing our game, our road game… No penalties, roll all four lines, the usual.”

Dec. 15 - at New Jersey
Dec. 16 - at New York Rangers
Dec. 18 - at New York Islanders
Dec. 20 - at Pittsburgh
Dec. 23 - at San Jose
Dec. 26 - at Dallas
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