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The Desert Dog Blog: Let's Empty the Mailbag!

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE -- Happy New Year Everybody!

For my first blog of 2012, I thought it would be a cool idea to answer some questions I’ve received recently from Coyotes fans via e-mail and Twitter.

Here goes…

Mike Smith
• The No. 1 question I’ve received lately is about the return of goalie Mike Smith, who has missed the past six games because of a lower-body injury. Well, Smith is traveling and skating with the team on its current four-game road trip and is inching closer to a return to action.

Mike Smith is progressing well,” General Manager Don Maloney told me this weekend. “He is back on the ice and expected to join the team for a full practice after our game in Minnesota. If all goes well, he may be available to play before the end of our current road trip.”

• Many fans have asked why young defenseman David Rundblad has played only one game since being acquired by the Coyotes – along with a second-round draft pick in 2012 – on Dec. 17 for center Kyle Turris.

The answer is because the Coyotes have an abundance of experienced right-handed defensemen – Adrian Aucoin, Derek Morris, Michal Rozsival – ahead of Rundblad on the depth chart, plus Rusty Klesla has played very well on the right side, too.

“With the puck, David is a real talent while his play without the puck must improve,” Maloney told me. “We hope to get him some regular ice time soon. If not, we will send him to the American Hockey League for some seasoning.”

• Several fans have asked why some Coyotes players are shown with a gaudy wrestling belt slung over a shoulder in some of the ‘Yotes Quotes Post-Game interviews on the team’s web site after wins.

Keith Yandle and the MVP of the game belt.
Here’s the scoop: The belt is awarded to the team’s most valuable player in the game as decided by the team’s most valuable player from the previous game. (It has nothing to do with the official “Three Stars of the Game,” which are picked by the media).

Other teams use other objects such as pucks and hats in similar MVP exercises, but the wrestling belt, to my knowledge, is unique to the Coyotes and is the brainchild of defenseman Keith Yandle and goalie Jason LaBarbera – both huge wrestling fans.

The catch regarding the belt is that the player who wins it MUST wear it during all post-game interviews with the media.

• Some fans wanted to know how many highly-regarded Coyotes prospects are playing in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship currently going on in Edmonton and Calgary.

The answer is three: Goalie Mark Visentin (Canada), defenseman Brandon Gormley (Canada) and forward Alex Ruuttu (Finland).

Below are their stats after the first week of the tournament:

Visentin: 2 games played, 2-0 record, 1.50 goals-against average, .941 save percentage (48 saves on 51 shots).

4 games played, 2 goals, 3 assists, plus-minus is 3, 12 shots on goal.

Ruuttu: 4 games played, 2 goals, 0 assists, plus-minus is 0, 16 shots on goal.

Don Maloney
• Finally, one fan wrote me asking if Maloney was invited to participate in this weekend’s Winter Classic Alumni game between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers.

The answer is yes. What follows is the reason Maloney gave me for his decision to politely decline the invitation:

“I'm still in therapy from the days when we played the Broad Street Bullies for real!”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
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