With only three preseason games remaining, the Coyotes know that it's time to increase the intensity both on and off the ice. There is still a fierce competition for a limited number of roster spots and precious few days to establish continuity and cohesiveness against division rivals San Jose and Anaheim.
"We played two games against Los Angeles and now we have back to back games against San Jose so you can already feel some of the bad blood building and it is exciting," said Coyotes left wing Tyson Nash. "I think this is what the League was trying to accomplish with the new schedule and it is working."
In their first five preseason games, the Coyotes have compiled a 1-4-0 record, but more importantly, they have built a foundation for success in the regular season that stems from getting everyone in the locker-room on the same page.
"We've come a long way since the first day of camp, but we are still building and getting to know each other," said Coyotes center Mike Comrie. "We really need to work on playing our system correctly, playing a full 60 minutes and putting some wins together before the season starts."
"We have a really good group of guys who get along with each other," said Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris. "As a team we have come together very quickly now we just need to buy into our system and work on simplifying our game to be more successful."
As the regular season nears, the Coyotes also know that they need to put a greater emphasis on winning games, and refuse to be satisfied with good efforts.
"We all know that we need to take our game up a notch and be more productive," added Morris. "At this point, there is no consolation in us saying, 'we lost, but we really played a good game.' "We need to put together some wins and keep improving our play as a club."
Despite only wining one of their first five exhibition match-ups, the Coyotes have seen flashes of great play. Now they must work on their consistency and compete hard in each and every game.
"We've had spurts where we've played well, but overall, our power play needs to get better and our penalty kill needs to get better," said Morris. "We're just not doing all the little things out there every night. But once we simplify our game, everything will improve."
ROSTER CUTS FUEL COMPETITION
As the Coyotes continue to make roster cuts during training camp, the competition on the ice gets tougher as well.
"Each team is getting closer and closer to their team and that is going to cause the intensity level to rise for every team," said captain Shane Doan.
The Coyotes preseason intensity reached a new high last Sunday when a hit by Coyotes defenseman Denis Gauthier knocked the Kings' Jeremy Roenick out of the game and sparked a series of minor altercations.
"The intensity really picked up for us last Sunday night and it is just going to improve as we keep getting numbers down and get closer and closer to our final roster," said Morris.
THIRD PERIOD WOES
The biggest disappointment for Phoenix this preseason has been their play in the third period. In their last four games, the Coyotes have been outscored 16-3 in the final period of the game. Associate Coach Barry Smith knows that for the Coyotes to be successful, they need to get better at protecting the lead and dominate the final period of the game.
"What's been going wrong, is our play has fallen off in the third periods," said Smith. "Part of that has been simply our effort, but we have also shot ourselves in the foot at times with penalty trouble as well. Combine that with a situation where the opponents are down by a goal or two and they are pressing us hard and it turns into a situation where we couldn't get the momentum back. The biggest thing we can do is to raise the level of intensity to match that of our opponents."
In his first three games as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, goaltender Curits Joseph is yet to record his first victory. However, there is no concern within the Coyotes locker room or among the coaching staff, especially considering Joseph's penchant for slow stars in the preseason.
"He was traditionally a slow starter in Detroit," said Smith. "But he is a veteran goaltender and he knows where he needs to be as well as what he needs to do to get there. Right now he's getting his timing back and just getting ready for the start of the season, so we are not at all worried about Curtis."
Fortunately for the Coyotes, Joseph who currently ranks third among active goaltenders in wins has a history of turning his play up a notch for the regular season. A trait the Coyotes are sure he will continue this year.