is one such player. The speedy yet gritty forward, known more for his penalty-killing skills than his scoring touch, has chipped in 10 points in the past 11 games after producing zero points in his first eight games.
“He plays the game fast and he plays it hard, and he’s finding the net this year,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “…He’s a utility player for us that skates very well and this year he’s finding some points.”
Tippett made those remarks after the Coyotes rallied from a 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 shootout victory at Edmonton on Friday. Korpikoski triggered Phoenix’s comeback by scoring his fifth goal of the season in the second period.
“It’s been nice getting some points,” said Korpikoski, a native of Turku, Finland. “…My role is more of playing the PK and doing that job, but it’s been good to score.”
Fans likely have noticed that Korpikoski has switched from sweater No. 29 to No. 28 this season. It was not a random change. Korpikoski said he changed numbers hoping to spark his offense because the last time he wore No. 28 – playing for Hartford in the American Hockey League in 2007-08 – he tallied 50 points.
Korpikoski was the 19th overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He was chosen by the New York Rangers, whose assistant general manager at the time was Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney. Their paths crossed again when Maloney traded for Korpikoski on July 13, 2009 in a deal that sent forward Enver Lisin to New York.
Korpikoski entered the 2010-11 season with 11 goals and 14 assists in 139 career regular-season NHL games. This season, he already has notched five goals and five assists in 19 games, and he is just one point short of last season’s total (11) and four points shy of his career-best for points in a season (14). He also registered his first three-point NHL game on Nov. 12 vs. Calgary with three assists.
Because of his speed and scoring touch, Tippett has turned to Korpikoski to participate in shootouts the past two seasons. Korpikoski has fared well, converting on seven of 19 chances, for a success rate of 36.8 percent.
Korpikoski has been playing on a line with Scottie Upshall and Vernon Fiddler, a line that is relied upon for secondary scoring.
“It’s fun to play with guys like that,” Korpikoski said. “You’re in the goal mode all the time, every shift. And I think it’s more of just us using our speed and getting into the forecheck, rather than just waiting in the neutral zone.”
Upshall has noticed improvement in Korpikoski’s game.
“He’s really coming into his own,” Upshall said. “He’s really making a name. I think over the last year he’s learned a lot, he took on a role as a defending player, but he’s got great speed, great skill and he’s a great young player.”