When center Garth Murray signed a one-year deal with the Coyotes over the summer, he was hoping for a fresh start.
“This is a team where they give guys who earn it the ice time,” said Murray, who has played every game the team has played since being recalled from the American Hockey League on Nov. 3. “They hold guys accountable. If you earn a spot, they will give you a chance.”
Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky has given Murray the chance to play in all situations and has liked what he’s seen.
“He brings an element to our team,” Gretzky said. “He gives us a little more grit down the middle, and he’s good on face-offs and battles.”
After being sent down at the end of training camp, Murray kept a positive attitude while working hard with the San Antonio Rampage, Phoenix’s AHL affiliate. In nine games there, he recorded four goals and one assist.
“(Gretzky) said to stay positive, work hard down there and I would be given a chance up here,’” said Murray, who signed with the Coyotes on July 18. “He is true to his word and it didn’t take too long.”
Murray, a native of Regina, Saskatchewan, has had a busy start to his NHL career. The 26-year-old already has played for four teams.
Selected by the New York Rangers with the 79th overall pick in the 2001 NHL Draft, Murray broke into the NHL in the 2003-04 season, during which he saw action in 20 games and scored one goal.
“I was just getting my feet wet and getting a taste of pro hockey,” Murray said. “I played most of my first year hurt and it was a long frustrating year.”
After the NHL lockout, Murray was traded to Montreal and split time between the NHL and the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal’s AHL affiliate over three seasons.
“The first trade is always tough,” Murray said. “You know it’s going to happen and it’s a matter of time and it was a pretty tough change.”
The Canadiens put Murray on waivers during the 2007-08 season, and the Florida Panthers claimed Murray, giving him a third opportunity to stick in the league. But that lasted only six games because of a season-ending shoulder injury leaving Murray to wonder what was left of his hockey career.
“I reached the mid-range of my career, 25, 26 years old, where I should be playing some of the best hockey,” Murray said. “I just recommitted myself to playing hard and knowing that I was prepared to do what I had to do and whatever happens, happens.”
With all the changes Murray has seen in his career, he’s hoping to leave a lasting mark in Phoenix.
“I’m going to take it game-by-game and shift-by-shift and it’s almost better that way,” Murray said. “You don’t have to worry about the big picture, but rather the small steps in front of you.”