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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
TAMPA BAY -- In case you missed it, when the Coyotes beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-0, on Saturday night they set a team record for victories in a season since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996. The 2001-02 Coyotes held the previous mark at 40 games. Thanks to another triumph on Sunday, this year’s team has 42 wins with 13 games to play.

Since Coyotes captain Shane Doan was a member of the 2001-02 team – and every other team since it moved to Phoenix – I asked him to reflect on this club’s accomplishment and where it ranks among the other teams with stars such as Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick and Nikolai Khabibulin.

Shane Doan
His answer may surprise you.

“We’ve had some good teams, but I think this is the first time where we’ve really been kind of climbing at the end of the season,” Doan said. “In the past, we’ve had teams that had some great starts and great first halves and then kind of cruised. We had a decent first half this year, but right now we feel like we’re getting better every single game and that’s a first at this time of the year.”

I asked him to elaborate and he obliged.

“Some of our past teams had more high-end guys and you recognize that. But now we’ve got a whole bunch of really solid hockey players, and that’s one through 12 up front and one through six on the blue line. And our goaltender, I don’t care which one is in the net, they both are legit and because of that it makes us feel good and we’re getting better and it’s great.”

The next milestone along the path is the overall franchise record for wins in a season by a team from Phoenix or Winnipeg. The 1984-85 Winnipeg Jets hold that record with 43 victories. The Coyotes will get their first chance to tie it here on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Defenseman Mathieu Schneider made his debut with the Coyotes on Sunday and played 21:21. As expected, he logged plenty of time on the power play (6:03).

The Coyotes acquired Schneider on March 3 in a trade with Vancouver but he missed the first four games after the trade to recover from a knee injury.

“It felt good out there and I was comfortable,” Schneider said after Phoenix’s 3-2 shootout victory over Atlanta. “Overall, playing games back-to-back, so close together and with the traveling, you’ve got to be happy with the win and I’m glad I was able to step in and not hurt the team.”

I have to give defenseman Adrian Aucoin – aka The Closer - credit for coming up with new clever lines every time he scores a game-deciding shootout goal. After doing so for the fourth time this season on Sunday, Aucoin explained his approach:

“I just try to keep it simple… I never want to deke because I don’t want to lose the puck. I never want to get in too close because I don’t want to get poke-checked. So, I just try to shoot it and not embarrass myself.”

The Coyotes held an optional skate on Monday at the St. Pete Times Forum. Ten players skated. Center Martin Hanzal, who suffered a minor upper-body injury on Sunday and played only three shifts, did not skate. He is considered day-to-day and could return to the lineup as early as Tuesday.

Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney is receiving plenty of kudos for the trades he made on March 3. The Coyotes are 5-0-0 since trading for forwards Lee Stempniak, Wojtek Wolski and Petteri Nokelainen and defenseman Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider.

Lee Stempniak
Stempniak has made the biggest impact with six goals in five games. On Monday, the NHL named him its Second Star of the Week for last week.

I asked Maloney for his reaction to Stempniak winning the honor.

He said: “We watched Lee closely while he was in Toronto and thought that maybe, in our scenario, he could bring some secondary offense to us but he’s certainly exceeded our expectations. Having said that, to me he’s showing exactly what he did when he was with St. Louis a couple of years ago. He’s a tenacious player who is hard on the puck and goes to hard areas, and he has a nice scoring touch.”

Thanks for reading.

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