Injuries to defensemen David Schlemko
and Rostislav Klesla
, combined with Derek Morris
’ leave of absence, have opened up spots for rookies Chris Summers
and Michael Stone
Both defensemen, who have been paired together in games, say they’re doing their best to fill in for the veterans while also trying to establish themselves as NHL players.
“It’s always unfortunate to see guys get hurt, but that usually means that someone else is there knocking on the door waiting for a chance,” said Summers, who has played in 17 games for Phoenix this season. “The coaches ask a lot out of you so you just make sure you put in the work and be a good guy in the room and around the rink. I’m just working hard and trying to be the best player I can.”
The Coyotes are 5-0-0 since promoting Stone from the American Hockey League on Feb. 18, making his first taste of the NHL that much more interesting.
“I’m just excited to be here,” Stone said. “This is my first experience in the NHL, but it’s been fun. It’s great that we keep winning. I’m just looking to get better and better every game. Obviously, we’re in a bit of a playoff race here and we’ve gotten kind of a good jumpstart on that. So, it’s looking good and I’m feeling good about things."
He added, “Everybody in the room is great. That’s been a huge bonus for me, and the fact that we keep winning is just awesome. It’s a great experience.”
Summers says being able to combine learning from veteran defensemen while winning games is an ideal situation for young players such as he and Stone.
“It’s always fun when you’re winning, no matter what team you’re on, but I think the core group of guys that we have in this locker room, especially the captains, have all been around the league for quite some time,” said Summers, who has notched three assists with the Coyotes. “We’ve got some other veterans on the team who’ve got a lot of character, but I like to tell people that I’m just like a sponge. I like to absorb everything, just listen and watch what the older guys are doing.”