In his first full season with the Coyotes, defenseman Rostislav Klesla
is being given more responsibility and has quietly put together a solid start to the season.
“I’m just trying to play as hard and as good as I can to help the team win,” said Klesla, whom Phoenix acquired in a trade from Columbus on Feb. 28 of last season. “So far, I’ve been feeling pretty good. I just like to contribute every game with whatever it takes… I just want to be a player that teammates can count on every game.”
Through 10 games, Klesla is averaging a team-high 26.1 shifts per game and ranks third on the team in average ice time at 20:14.
Coyotes Associate Coach Jim Playfair says Klesla’s attention to his defensive responsibilities have had a positive impact on the entire team.
“He takes a great deal of pride in the shutdown role and I think what has happened is his penalty-killing details have allowed us to be a consistent group,” Playfair said. “…I think he’s a natural leader. He’s playing responsible minutes and he’s playing consistent.”
Klesla, who has chipped in three assists and who is a plus-4, has put his leadership skills to good use in the first three weeks of the season.
Because of the injury to Michal Rozsival
, Klesla has been paired with David Schlemko
and has become a mentor of sorts to the young defenseman.
“I’ve played before with a few younger defensemen, and I always like to try to help them out, and with Schlemmer it’s pretty easy,” Klesla said. “I try not to tell him too much because he’s a good player, but sometimes I can tell him how to play against this guy or that guy, or what to look for, what they’re going to do. (We) always try to talk.”
Schlemko says the communication the two have developed in recent games has lead to an increased level of chemistry between them.
“I think the more communication you have out there the better,” Schlemko said. “…We’ve been talking lots on the ice and we’re starting to figure out each other’s tendencies a little bit in our end and being able to work off each other.”
Klesla, who became a father for the first time just before the season started, said he thinks the pieces are in place for a successful season.
“We just have to have every player play really well in every game,” Klesla said. “That’s the only way we can win. We have to just play consistent and try to follow the system and just play to our strengths, and try to get as many wins as we can. That’s the main goal here.”