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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
EVERETT, Wash. – Coyotes forward Peter Mueller did not play in Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Comcast Arena because of a minor groin injury, but there still were plenty of “Mueller” jerseys – old and new – sprinkled throughout the near-sellout crowd.

Peter Mueller
Mueller notched 136 points for Everett before coming to Phoenix and the fans here haven’t forgotten him. In fact, Mueller spent about half of the game signing autographs.

“It feels good to be back,” Mueller said. “It’s definitely one of those times where you don’t realize how much you miss it until you get off the plane and start seeing familiar faces. It was definitely a great experience. I didn’t play, but I will cherish this and remember it forever.”

Defenseman Shaun Heshka, who played three seasons for Everett, did play Tuesday night and received a huge ovation when his name was announced in Phoenix’s starting lineup.

I had a chance to speak with General Manager Don Maloney on Tuesday about some recent roster moves. Here are some tidbits from our chat:

Francis Lessard
• The Coyotes are expecting tough guy Francis Lessard to be suspended by the NHL on Wednesday for his hit on Anaheim’s Ryan Donally during last Friday night’s game at Arena. Lessard was whistled for boarding in the third period and was assessed a game misconduct for the hit. An NHL hearing on the hit is set for Wednesday. Had the incident not occurred, Lessard would not have been assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio on Monday.

• Forward Taylor Pyatt continues to nurse the lower body injury he suffered last week in a game vs. Los Angeles. He likely will be out for two or three more weeks.

• Forwards Kyle Turris and Viktor Tikhonov, both of whom made the Opening Night roster last season, were assigned to San Antonio because more seasoned players – such as Lauri Korpikoski and Jeff Hoggan – have stood out more in training camp.

I spoke with new Goaltending Coach Sean Burke about his approach to his new job and asked him to share his thoughts on goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Jason LaBarbera, the team’s likely starter and backup, respectively.

“I like the fact that they’re both big goaltenders,” Burke said. “I think the style that we’re going to hopefully play as a team is going to give them the ability to be successful. But we have to give the team a chance to win every night by cutting down on the bad goals and stealing games here and there. If you’re going to make the playoffs in this conference, your goaltender is going to have to steal games for you once in awhile.”

Burke will be around the team constantly, at home and on the road.

“For goaltenders to be successful, I think you need to establish a little bit of a team within a team,” Burke said. “To accomplish that, the goaltenders and the goaltending coach have to work together so they can take care of their business and the rest of the team knows that that is already done and established and they don’t have to worry about whether or not the goaltender is ready.”

Here’s how Maloney explained moving Burke from Director of Prospect Development to Goaltending Coach and moving Grant Fuhr from Goaltending Coach to Director of Goaltending Development: “I just thought a different voice for Bryzgalov would be a good thing. Sean Burke is really a disciple of (goaltending guru) Benoit Allaire and that type of style, and I thought both those guys would benefit from a new take on their position.”

New Assistant Coach Dave King would have joined the team at the start of training camp, but he had some business in Canada to attend to before coming aboard.

For those who don’t know, King once was the head coach of the Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets. More recently, King coached pro teams in Sweden, Germany and Russia.

I asked him which he prefers to coach - European hockey or North Amercian hockey?

“If you look at hockey overall, it’s a hybrid game now,” King said. “The European game and the North American game used to be distinctly different. Now there’s much more intermixing of the two games, so it’s going to be fun here. I think any time you can coach in the NHL it’s terrificly exciting because the players are so good. And this team, in particular, has so many young players it’s kind of nice to be associated with it. The energy in the room is terrific. That’s always enjoyable for a coach.”

King is excited to be part of the Coyotes, and he is looking forward to helping the so-called “distracted” team surprise prognosticators who don’t think much of its chances to make the playoffs.

“It’s a very interesting opportunity for sure because this team has a great challenge which I think is going to make this team even better,” King said, referring to the ongoing ownership situation. “The fact that everybody is picking us to be a team that might struggle a little bit … I think it’s going to help the team play with a little extra gusto.”

Maloney knows King through Tom Renney, the former head coach of the New York Rangers. King was Renney’s mentor, Maloney said.

“I really like his ability to break down opponents and define weaknesses,” Maloney said. “He probably understands the game as good as anybody. He’s really an encyclopedia on the game of the hockey.”

Thanks for reading.


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