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The Desert Dog Blog: Wellwood, Hnidy at Camp to Earn Contracts

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – There are plenty of players looking to win jobs at the Coyotes’ training camp this season. Most are fresh-faced prospects from within the team’s system.

           Dave Vest
    twitter: davest4yotes
Two established NHL players – Kyle Wellwood and Shane Hnidy – also are in camp on a tryout basis hoping to win jobs/earn contracts.

Wellwood, a center, has played 338 NHL games over the past five seasons. In those games, he notched 63 goals and 97 assists.

“It’s been pretty competitive so far,” Wellwood told me on Sunday after his second day of camp with the Coyotes. “A lot of guys are working hard to make the team and that makes it fun.”

Wellwood, 27, said he thinks he can make a smooth transition to the Coyotes because they play a similar system to the one he played in Vancouver the past two seasons.

The Coyotes will spend the next few weeks trying to figure out which four centers will be on the roster at the end of camp. Martin Hanzal, Vernon Fiddler and newcomer Eric Belanger appear to be the locks. Wellwood is hoping to be the fourth.

“I just want to show my ability with the puck and that I’m willing to work at both ends of the ice and that they can count on me to show up every day,” Wellwood said.

Hnidy is without a contract in September for the first time since breaking into the league in 2000-01. The 35-year-old defenseman told me several other teams invited him to their camps for a tryout, but that the Coyotes stood out to him because of the way they play and the way they overcame adversity last season.

While the uncertainty of not having a contract at this point is a bit unsettling, Hnidy said it has lit a fire in him to compete extremely hard at this camp.

Shane Hnidy. Photo by Getty Images.
“I’ve never taken anything for granted and it’s never been an easy path for me,” said Hnidy, who has played 547 NHL games for six teams. “I think that’s something that works in my favor. I’ve had to work for every spot I’ve gotten and I’ve done it for a long time so I want to come in here and show a veteran presence, and be someone who can move the puck while bringing a physical element to the team.”

The Coyotes do have at least one opening on the blue line so Hnidy will get a long look over the next few weeks.

Head Coach Dave Tippett said he is glad to have Wellwood and Hnidy in camp, and that they will be judged mostly by their play in the exhibition games and not scrimmages or drills in camp.

“It's just a matter of whether we have a need for that player with us right now," Tippett said. “…They’re good professionals even though they are in the situation that they are. They come in and they put the work in. The young players see those guys and they see a lot of experience in how they prepare and how they practice, and ultimately how they play in the games will determine whether they are with our team.”

Forward Lauri Korpikoski is wearing No. 28 this season instead of No. 29. Asked why he switched numbers, Korpikoski told me it was because he’s always preferred No. 28 but it wasn’t available when he came to the Coyotes in a trade because Steven Reinprecht was wearing it at the time.

When I asked for more info, Korpikoski said he wants to wear No. 28 again mostly because that’s the number he wore when he scored 23 goals for the Hartford Wolfpack (AHL) in 2007-08.

Kyle Turris. Photo by Norm Hall.
During a break in Sunday’s practices I asked Tippett if any young players had wowed him so far.

His answer was succinct: “No. I'm not looking for a ‘wow’ factor yet. I'm looking for (them to) show me you’re an NHL player."

On Saturday, Tippett told reporters that center Kyle Turris showed up to camp with the right attitude.

“You can tell he's got some bite in his eye, he wants to make this team bad,” Tippett said. “I expect that. I see the same thing from (Viktor) Tikhonov, and I can see the same thing from (Mikkel) Boedker. There's some good young players that are going to push for jobs. Kyle's in a position where he wants to earn a job bad, and he's put the work in this summer. He was healthy this summer, which is a big plus for him."

Forward Alexandre Picard tells me he and the NHL's other Alexandre Picard, a defenseman at Montreal’s camp, often are mistaken for one another.

For instance, Picard remembers seeing a huge story in his local newspaper about himself the day after he was drafted eighth overall in 2004. The only problem was that the accompanying photo with the story was of the other Alexandre Picard.

Also, Picard can remember an instance when he almost got bumped from a flight the two of them were booked on as teenagers simply because the other Alexandre Picard checked in first and the flight attendant couldn’t compute that there were actually two of them.

Team C beat Team A, 2-0, in Sunday’s scrimmage. Lee Stempniak scored a nifty breakaway goal and Ryan Hollweg scored on a penalty shot.

Click here to listen to an interview with Stempniak.

Thanks for reading.

Reach Dave Vest at and follow him on twitter @davest4yotes.
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