After a four-day hiatus for the NHL All-Star break, the Coyotes returned to practice on Monday afternoon at Jobing.com Arena to prepare for a Tuesday night matchup in San Jose with the Sharks.
Almost all of the Coyotes participated in Monday’s workout. Defenseman Keith Yandle
, who played in Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game, did not attend. Center Vernon Fiddler, who is recovering from an upper-body injury, skated alone before his teammates took the ice as a group.
Facing six home games and only two road games over the next 17 days, the team's mood on Monday was quite upbeat.
“You could tell that the fatigue factor isn’t a factor anymore,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said after practice. “Guys had a few days off to rest some bumps and bruises and get a little mental break.”
► Click here
to watch Tippett's Q & A session with the media after Monday's practice.
|Photo by Norm Hall |
Despite being absent, Yandle, who was named the NHL’s No. 2 Star of the Month for January
a few hours before Monday’s practice, was a hot topic.
“He’s had an unbelievable year,” Tippett said. “He’s played so well for us. Let’s hope that he got a little bit of time to rest (over the break)... He’s been our top player here this year and, really, he’s been one of the top defensemen in the league throughout the season.”
Coyotes captain Shane Doan
said he thinks Yandle deserved to be the No. 1 Star of the Month based on his numbers - 17 points in 14 games - and the fact that he’s a defenseman. Doan also said he enjoyed watching Yandle play at the All-Star Game, even though Yandle didn’t notch a point in Team Lidstrom’s 11-10 win over Team Staal.
“It’s so much fun to watch a guy that’s as good as he is,” Doan said. “He’s an elite player, and (at) the All-Star Game he showed it. A couple times you watched him jump into the play… He’s a special guy.”
Yandle flew with the team to San Jose on Monday afternoon and will be in the lineup on Tuesday night.
Rookie defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson
was all smiles at Monday’s practice less than 48 hours after being part of the All-Star Game’s SuperSkills competition.
|Photo by Getty Images. |
“It was a good experience to be there and was real fun,” said Ekman-Larsson, who, like Yandle, was picked for Team Lidstrom.
One of Ekman-Larsson’s highlights of the weekend was posing for a photo with the other Swedish All-Star weekend participants.
“There were seven Swedes there, so we got together and took a picture,” Ekman-Larsson said. “It will be fun to have when I'm an old man.”
Ekman-Larsson hopes he will be included in the All-Star festivities in future years and get a chance to play in the All-Star Game itself.
“I want to be a superstar in this league,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I try to be better everyday, so I hope sometime (soon) I join the real game.”
Most of the Coyotes surveyed at Monday’s practice liked the format of this year’s All-Star Game, with Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal picking the teams as captains.
“I thought the concept this year was unique and brought a little extra insight to it, and put it in the players’ hands,” Tippett said. “I thought (NHL Vice President for Hockey and Business Development) Brendan Shanahan did a fantastic job of just adding that something new to it that people could grab on to.”
• Defenseman Michal Rozsival
, who has missed the past two games because of a lower-body injury, practiced with teammates.
• Tuesday’s game at San Jose will be broadcast on Versus.