It’s a common cliché in the world of the NHL and Coach Wayne Gretzky repeated it the other night in Columbus: injuries are part of this business. The injury in this case is a shoulder injury for center Olli Jokinen that could sideline him from two to four weeks. While it’s true that injuries are part of the business, certain injuries can have a greater impact on a team’s season than others.
The Coyotes are the latest Western Conference team that will be tested by an injury to a key player. The St. Louis Blues have been forced to play without Eric Johnson, Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya. The Dallas Stars will be without their leader Brenden Morrow for a significant portion of the season. Like the Blues and Stars, the Coyotes are currently below the eighth and final playoff spot in the west. But, as of Friday morning, only four points separate eight teams from the eighth spot to the 15th position. Staying near the .500 mark is critical for all these teams and it becomes more difficult when a key player or two is out of the lineup for an extended period.
How will the young Coyotes respond to the loss of Jokinen? The win in Columbus (after Jokinen was hurt in the first period) is hopefully a sign of things to come. While it wasn’t an overall great performance by any means, there were some encouraging happenings:
•David Hale scored his first career goal. It’s going to be important that everybody steps up...there needs to be different heroes every night.
•Mikael Tellqvist made 38 saves. Goaltending is huge every night but again, it’s magnified when a key player is out of the lineup. Telly’s performance was needed for the win in Columbus but I liked it for another reason: it creates competition at the position. Ilya Bryzgalov is the clear No. 1 goalie here, but he needs to be pushed at times. A healthy competition for ice time within the team (at all positions!) is good.
•Kyle Turris made a play that led to a goal. Kyle has been getting better and more confident with each game. But, as captain Shane Doan
pointed out after the loss in Carolina, the young guys are getting enough ice time and they have the talent to start contributing on the score sheet. Turris made the pass that led to Hale’s goal and got the Coyotes on the board.
sores the winner. This goes along with a couple of the points I’ve already made: there needs to be different heroes each night and the young guys need to contribute on the score sheet.
I hope that everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and had the opportunity to share it with loved ones. Until next time, I’m Dave Strader.