GLENDALE – Duck, Duck,
That pretty much sums up the next five days for the Coyotes who, thanks to a funky, truncated schedule for this season, will play three games in a row vs. rival Anaheim starting Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena.
Perhaps backup goalie Jason LaBarbera summed it up best:
|Photo by Getty Images. |
“When the schedule first came out we all kind of looked at it and shook our heads and said ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team – either in the NHL or in the minors or in junior hockey - that has played three (non-playoff) games in a row against the same team. But it’s kind of interesting and it will be a great series. They’re firing on all cylinders so it will be an important three games for us.”
Thanks to Chicago’s amazing start to the season, Anaheim’s strong start – they’ve collected 14 wins and 29 points through 18 games - has gone largely unnoticed by media and fans.
The Coyotes, however, have taken note and find themselves eight points behind the Ducks in the Pacific Division standings.
“Anaheim is the team right now that is leading our division and this is a great opportunity for us,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Friday’s practice. “Their top players are playing very well and they’ve gotten very solid goaltending … and they’re playing a solid team game. They’ve earned their points. They’re scoring goals and they’ve kept the puck out of their net and it’s leading to wins.”
Tippett said he and his staff would approach the three games – the first two in Glendale and the third in Anaheim – as if it were a playoff series.
|Dave Tippett |
“It makes it fun as a coach because you dig in and you’ve got to find ways to make your team better while playing the same opponent,” Tippett said. “In the playoffs, that’s what you do every day. In a mini-series like this, with the points so valuable, that will be the case this time around.”
Defenseman Derek Morris agreed.
“It will be just like playing in the playoffs,” Morris said. “We know what everybody does in this league every single night. It’s just a matter of who works harder and who makes less mistakes. We know what they’re going to do. They know what we’re going to do. We’re just going to have to execute better than them.”
Oddly enough, the Coyotes and Ducks have yet to play a game six weeks into this season. Each team has won six of the past 12 games between these clubs.
• Note: The Coyotes will play Saturday’s game again minus forwards Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata; Tippett ruled them out after Friday’s practice. Later in the day, the Coyotes recalled forwards Chris Brown and Rob Klinkhammer from the team's American Hockey League affiliate. Click here to read more.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Follow Dave Vest on Twitter at @davest4yotes.