(Photos courtesy of Norm Hall)
Phoenix Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky ran his team though a grueling 90-minute practice session on Tuesday morning, preaching hard work, while delivering a message to his players.
After Thursday night's 4-0 shutout over the Los Angeles Kings it was clear that the message was received.
Shane Doan, Krystofer Kolanos, Mike Leclerc and Paul Mara all scored goals for Phoenix and netminder Curtis Joseph recorded his second shutout of the season and the 45th of his career as the Coyotes dominated the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Kings at Glendale Arena.
"No one was happy with our performance in Anaheim last Sunday, but on Tuesday we clearly got the message," said Doan, who also assisted on Leclerc's goal in the second period. "We were talking about playing hard for 60 minutes and we did that tonight. Our goaltending was huge, as has been the case for most of the year."
Joseph stopped all 21 shots he faced, including an incredible glove save on the Kings' Craig Conroy in the second period to keep the game at 2-0. It was Joseph's first shutout since the 2-0 win in Calgary on Oct. 17.
"We played a real good game tonight and it's nice to be able to get a shutout," said Joseph. "Guys battled tonight, and it was probably our best game of the year."
The Coyotes were quick to jump out of the gate on the road-weary Kings, who played last night in Dallas. Phoenix started the scoring on the power play at the 6:29 mark of the first period as Doan sent a high wrist shot past Los Angeles' netminder Jason LaBarbera.
Kolanos followed minutes later beating LaBarbera with a similar shot from the right face-off circle to record his second goal of the season.
"Our work ethic was much better tonight," said Gretzky, whose team improved to 6-8-1 on the season. "We capitalized on our opportunities and we were strong as the game went on."
Phoenix got the proverbial three-goal lead on Leclerc's goal mid-way though the second period. Driving hard to the net, Leclerc beat sprawling LaBarbera on a rebound attempt to notch his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
"Paul Mara had a big shot on net and I just went there to try and tip it," said Leclerc. "But it hit my stick, with the goalie going the other way and I just tipped it in. It was a simple power play goal."
Mara capped off the scoring for Phoenix with 5:47 left in the second period when he stuffed a rebound at the left side of the net past LaBarbera
"Overall this was probably the best game we played this season," said Mara, who leads the team with 13 points. "We just have to take the momentum into our next game and hopefully get a win."
Coyotes forward Geoff Sanderson suffered a bruised knee in the second period and did not return. He will be re- eval uated on Friday.
It is unclear whether Sanderson will play on Saturday in Detroit. As a precaution, the team plans to recall either Martin Podlesak (2 goals, 6 assists in 12 games) or Steve Gainey (6 goals, 6 assists in 12 games) from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, the Coyotes' top minor league affiliate.
IN THE ZONE
Coming into tonight's contest, Sanderson registered one goal and two assists in the last two games, while Tyson Nash had recorded an assist in each of the last two games.
UPCOMING ROAD TRIP
The Coyotes will embark on a three game road trip, which starts on Saturday night (5:30 p.m.) at Detroit. Phoenix will then travel to Chicago to play the Blackhawks on Sunday (5 p.m.) and conclude the road trip in Minnesota (6 p.m.) on Tuesday night.
Saturday's game can be seen on WB6 or head on KDUS-1060AM as well as KDKB-93.3FM.