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The Desert Dog Blog: Coyotes Quickly Put Loss to Penguins Behind Them

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
SCOTTSDALE -- Less than 12 hours after arriving back in Phoenix via a four-hour flight from Pittsburgh, the Coyotes practiced on Tuesday for a game on Thursday at the San Jose Sharks.

There weren’t a lot of laughs – or even smiles for that matter – during the workout at the Ice Den thanks mostly to the 6-1 defeat the team absorbed Monday night against the Penguins.

Photo by Associated Press.
“Everybody is pissed off when you lose,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “That’s the way it goes. Coaches, players, everybody. So it was good to get out, get to work and get it out of your system.”

General Manager Don Maloney watched the practice from the bleachers at the Ice Den, trying to gauge the mood of his team, which posted a 1-2-1 record on its four-game trip to Atlantic Division rinks.

“We’re disappointed but we’re realistic in that we feel we got what we deserved (on the trip),” Maloney said. “We are making big mistakes with the puck - at certain times of the game - that are ending up in the back of our net, and the penalties we’ve been taking have gotten us off our rhythm that we need to have. We are not a team with elite-level skill. We need everyone to contribute and when your offensive players are sitting for a long time and your penalty killers get overtaxed, then nothing good happens.”

The Coyotes will play San Jose at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday at the HP Pavilion. Oddly, it will be the first game of the season between the Pacific Division rivals.

I spoke to Jason LaBarbera at great length today about suddenly being the starting goalie while Ilya Bryzgalov nurses an upper-body injury. LaBarbera has started three consecutive games and is expected to start Thursday’s game at San Jose.

Jason LaBarbera
“It’s definitely been like a flashback to when I played all the time,” said LaBarbera, who played a career-high 45 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 2007-08. “It’s funny how things can change so quickly from where I was playing like once every three weeks to playing three games in five nights. It’s definitely a challenge for me, for sure, but it’s very exciting to get out there and try to be able to contribute on a regular basis.”

Thinking it might be a silly question but proceeding anyway, I asked LaBarbera if his off-ice persona has changed since he’s taken over in net.

“Without a doubt,” LaBarbera said. “I’m a little more on edge these days and a little more grumpy just because it takes a lot to get focused, so I’m always trying to get to that point where I’m focused."

The physical demands on a goalie are grueling. With this in mind, I next asked LaBarbera how his body had been holding up to the recent increase in its workload.

“I’ve felt really good and my legs feel great,” LaBarbera said. “When I’m not playing I always work with (Strength & Conditioning Coordinator) Mike Bahn and we’re always preparing for a situation like this. For me, it’s more mental and having my mind in as good of shape as my body. It’s been two years since I’ve played this regularly so I’m just trying to revert back to what it was like for me then.”

Photo by Associated Press.
Should he start Thursday’s game at San Jose, LaBarbera will be spared from having to watch it unfold seated away from his teammates, on a chair in the corner of the rink next to where the visiting team enters the ice. That’s where the visiting team’s backup goalie typically sits at HP Pavilion because there isn’t enough room for him on the bench.

For LaBarbera, that would be a nice change.

“It gets a little lonely over there because you're sitting with their fans, their ice crew and even their mascot, and he likes to poke fun at you,” LaBarbera said. “Plus, it’s hard to get into the game when you’re sitting over there because you can’t get a good feel for what the team is feeling or thinking or going through. When you’re sitting on the bench you have a good idea of what’s going on and what the guys are saying and what the coaches are saying. When you’re over in that corner it’s kind of awkward when you go back to the dressing room for the intermission because you might think the team is playing well but on the bench the guys don’t feel they’re playing that well. It’s a funny dynamic. You don’t really have a good grasp on what’s going on.”

Bryzgalov did not practice with his teammates on Tuesday.

Photo by Associated Press.
“We will know more tomorrow than we know today,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said when asked for an update on Bryzgalov’s condition. “We’re probably looking at after the Christmas break for him to come back. It’s just an injury that’s going to take a little bit of time but, again, it’s day-to-day and not week-to-week.”

• Forward Taylor Pyatt, who absorbed a solid punch under the left eye during a bout with Pittsburgh enforcer Deryk Engelland during Monday’s loss, also did not practice with the team on Tuesday.

Pyatt squared off with Engelland, a "heavywweght" among NHL fighters, in defense of teammate Vernon Fiddler early in the third period.

"That's a hard job to do," Tippett said when asked about what Pyatt had done. "... but guys like that, who stick up for their teammates, are invaluable on their team." 

► Reach Dave Vest at and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
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