While Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle
heads to Ottawa for the All-Star weekend, his teammates have scattered to reconnect with family and friends, and to recharge for the final 32 games of the regular season.
Seeking insight on what’s ahead, I poked my head into Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney’s office and asked if he had time to chat. He did.
“We have some work to do to get to the playoffs but if we can come out of this break and put a little undefeated string together we’ll be in better shape,” Maloney said. “It can be done. Anaheim has done it. Calgary has done it. LA has done it. It’s our turn.”
|Don Maloney |
The Coyotes enter the break with 52 points, just three points behind eighth-place Minnesota in the Western Conference standings. However, Phoenix is 12 points behind sixth-place Chicago. The time to rejoin the pack, instead of chasing it, has come.
“Our record shows that we’ve been very average this season and average isn’t going to be good enough after the break,” Maloney said. “We have to be better. We’re going to need better performances from just about everybody to get into the playoffs. Specifically, we’re going to need more offensive contributions from just about everybody in the group, and better defensive play. The two constants we’ve had have been strong goaltending by Mike Smith
and consistent point production from Radim Vrbata
and Ray Whitney
. But we’re going to need a lot more from everybody else.”
He added, “Shane Doan
has been producing for us at a good clip too, but if you look at our second, third and fourth lines, there are long, dry patches (of no scoring) there and we have to find a way to get more consistent scoring from those guys.”
On the plus side, the Coyotes will play 18 of their 32 remaining games at Jobing.com Arena and all but one of those 32 games will be played against Western Conference teams.
The NHL trade deadline is coming up on Feb 27. Maloney said it’s too soon to tell just how active the Coyotes will be that day. He did tell me current players on the roster are being evaluated “as we speak.”
|Photo by Getty Images. |
“We’re a team that has relied on its veterans but if the job isn’t getting done at that time then we’ll have to make some changes,” Maloney said. “For the most part we’ve stuck with the veteran players and given them every opportunity to have success, but the clock is ticking.”
While not pleased with the way the Coyotes played on Tuesday vs. Ottawa, Maloney was pleased they were able to earn an ugly 3-2 win. He’s hoping it will be a springboard to a successful post-All-Star Game season.
“I didn’t think it was a very good game at all, quite frankly, but we muscled through it and found a way to get the two points,” Maloney said. “It was crucial to win the last game before all of this time off, and this break is going to be good because it will refresh us all and we can come out of it almost as a new group with a ‘hey, let’s really get after this now' mentality.”
He added, “I’m excited about the last part of the season. If we can stay healthy I think we can make a charge.”EDITOR’S NOTE:
Contact Dave Vest at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.