The Phoenix Coyotes made a series of player moves today as the team finalized its roster for opening night on October 5 at Vancouver.
On Monday, defenseman Matt Jones was assigned to the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, while defenseman Brad Ference and defenseman/leftwing Chris McAllister were placed on waivers. In addition to today's moves, the Coyotes are still likely to adjust their roster again before 9:00 a.m. Tuesday following the NHL waiver draft when any inactive players must be officially placed on injured reserve.
For Jones, the decision to assign him to San Antonio was based on the limited number of open roster spots available.
"With Matt it was just a numbers thing," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. "This whole training camp he played great. He did everything he was asked to do. He was our most physical defenseman and it is obvious that he is an NHL caliber defenseman. We just ran into a situation where we couldn't afford to keep nine defensemen.
"The good news for our organization is that we are going to have Jones and (Keith) Ballard and (Zbynek) Michalek here for a long time," continued Gretzky. "I told Matt today that I hated to send him to San Antonio and I don't know how long he is going to be down there, but I was confident that he was going to be an NHL defenseman for a long time."
Ference and McAllister were also victims of the numbers game. With both players being placed on waivers, NHL teams will now have a 24-hour window in which they can claim Ference or McAlliister, otherwise they will be assigned to San Antonio.
"I feel worse about a guy like Brad (Ference)," said Gretzky. "He is a good guy and I would really like to see him playing in the NHL, but at this point we just don't have the room to keep everyone."
For McAllister, a veteran of over 300 NHL games, this was the first time in his career that he had been placed on waivers, but his play during the preseason made the decision a hard one.
"McAllister was good here in the sense that he worked hard and did what he was asked to do. But again it came down to an issue where we had a several players that had good camps and a limited number of spots," said Gretzky.
The Coyotes are now left with a roster of 27 players. By tomorrow morning, Phoenix will have to declare which players are going to remain with the club; which will be placed on injured reserve to start the season and who, if anybody will be assigned to San Antonio.
One player that will be starting the season on the injured reserve list is forward Ladislav Nagy. After suffering a preseason shoulder injury, Nagy will not play in either of the team's first two games of the season and will be eligible to return from the injured reserve list on Thursday.
Other players who could still start the season on injured reserve include goaltender Brian Boucher (groin) and Jason Chimera (ribs).
NASH READY TO RETURN
After missing the last three games of the preseason with a minor wrist injury, Coyotes forward Tyson Nash will be back in the Phoenix line up on Wednesday evening.
"Nash will definitely be back in there," said Gretzky. "He has been working hard and is ready to go."
Jason Chimera continues to recover form a rib injury sustained in last Friday's contest in San Jose. He will be re- eval uated again on Tuesday morning. He is currently listed as day-to-day.
Fredrik Sjostrom returned to the ice on Monday after suffering a laceration to his leg last Friday in San Jose. His status for Wednesday's game is undecided.
Brian Boucher continues to heal from a groin injury suffered in the Coyotes first preseason game on September 16. A decision on whether Boucher will begin the season on the injured reserve list is expected tomorrow. He is still listed as day-to-day.