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Coyotes Want to 'Up the Ante'

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – On the day before training camp started, Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney and Head Coach Dave Tippett spoke to the team’s non-hockey operations staff about the upcoming season.

The message they delivered was the same one they’ve delivered to the players throughout the long off-season: “It’s time to up the ante.”

Don Maloney and Dave Tippett.
The Coyotes set franchise marks for victories and points last season with 50 and 107, respectively. It’s a nice foundation on which to build, but Maloney and Tippett have made it clear that improvement is expected in 2010-11. Tippett, in fact, promised the staff that his team would be a better playoff team this season.

“I’m very excited,” said Tippett, the reigning Jack Adams Award winner. “We had almost 40 of the 50-some guys scheduled to come to camp skating here (in Arizona) for a long time. That’s a great sign, and the enthusiasm of the players is very high right now. Our guys will be ready to go coming in here on Friday. And that’s very good, especially this year because we’ll be starting the season in Europe. We have to be ready to go.”

Fifty-seven players reported to training camp on Friday at 8 a.m. It will be a long day that will feature a team meeting, player physicals and fitness testing, and “Media Day” duties, such as posing for headshots and answering questions for Jumbotron features.

The players have been split into three groups for the first few days of training camp. The first group will take the ice inside Arena on Saturday at 9 a.m.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here to see the roster and schedule for the 2010 training camp.

There are several new names on the roster this season, and there are multiple questions that will need to be answered over the next 22 days before the regular season opens on Oct. 9 vs. Boston in Prague.

Here are some of the key stories to follow/players to watch:

► Defenseman Zbynek Michalek left the team via free agency. Who will replace him on the depth chart? The Coyotes have several young defensemen from within their system they will be auditioning to help fill the void left by Michalek, an alternate captain who played many crucial minutes. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Maxim Goncharov, and David Schlemko are the leading candidates, but others, including Chris Summers, Michael Stone and Brandon Gormley, will be pushing for attention, too. Shane Hnidy, a 10-year NHL veteran, will try to win a job via a tryout.

► Center Matthew Lombardi also left the team via free agency and center Robert Lang was not-re-signed. Who will replace them on the depth chart? Early in the off-season, Maloney and Tippett spoke about how Wojtek Wolski might be switched from winger to center, a position he played while developing into an NHL forward. That plan may be shelved considering the Coyotes recently signed free-agent center Eric Belanger and invited free-agent center Kyle Wellwood to camp for a tryout. Kyle Turris also will be given a chance to join Martin Hanzal, Vernon Fiddler and, presumably, Belanger on the depth chart at center.

► The Coyotes struggled on the power play in 2009-10 and addressed that shortcoming in the off-season by signing free-agent Ray Whitney.

► Defenseman Ed Jovanovski and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, two huge pieces of the team’s recent success, are entering the final seasons of their contracts.

► The Coyotes must alter their training camp schedule to accommodate a weeklong trip to the Czech Republic to start the season. In essence, the team’s final, and arguably most important week of training camp, will take place 5,800 miles from Arena.

► Captain Shane Doan will be looking to rebound offensively from last season when he scored less than 20 goals for the first time since 1998-99. Doan, of course, missed the last four games of the playoff series with Detroit because of a shoulder injury. Thus, it’s unlikely any player on the roster is looking forward to camp starting more than Doan.

► Forward Scottie Upshall is returning to action after missing nearly half of the 2009-10 season because of a knee injury. Upshall had surgery soon after the injury and has been rehabbing ever since.

► Defenseman Kurt Sauer, who missed all but one game last season because of an upper-body injury that left him with chronic whiplash-like symptoms, is on the training camp roster but is not expected to play this season.

► And finally, if you like rooting for underdogs to make the team how about rooting for Blair Riley, who this week became the only rookie-camp tryout player to earn an invitation to the main training camp. Riley, 25, scored 42 goals in a four-year career at Ferris State University.

Reach Dave Vest at and follow him on twitter @davest4yotes.
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