One player who needed the time off more than anybody was defenseman Keith Yandle
Yandle, who was named an alternate captain before the start of the regular season, has been logging more ice time than ever lately. In the past five games, he has played fewer than 27 minutes only once.
“It’s great,” said Yandle, a native of Boston, when asked about his ice time. “It’s a great challenge for me, playing against top lines, playing a lot of minutes. It’s hopefully something I can run with and prove that I can do it.”
Injuries to defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Adrian Aucoin
have factored into Tippett’s decision to play Yandle more minutes lately. And Tippett has liked what he’s seen.
“He's a guy that’s taken a lot of minutes … and he'll continue to do that,” Tippett said. “He's a solid player for us. He plays in all situations and can have an impact on the game.”
Yandle, 24, already has played 223 games for the Coyotes since joining the club in 2006-07. He likes the vibe surrounding this franchise and its pack mentality approach.
|Keith Yandle is three points shy of 100 for his NHL career. Photo by Getty Images. |
“We don’t have a Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, guys like that who are going to score 50 goals for us, so I think we have to have a lot of secondary scoring,” said Yandle, who ranks seventh on the team in scoring with four goals and eight assists for 12 points. “We’ve got a lot of great players here, but every night it seems like it’s a different guy, and for us to be successful it’s probably going to have to be like that all year.”
Yandle is hoping the increased ice time we lead to another season full of career-highs. In 2009-10, he played in all 82 regular-season games and set career bests in goals (12), assists (29), points (41), power-play goals (5) and plus/minus ratio at plus-16.
Defenseman Derek Morris
, who has befriended and mentored Yandle, has been impressed by how quickly Yandle has evolved into an all-around NHL blueliner.
“I think the biggest thing is he’s doing a real good job in his own end,” Morris said. “He’s worrying about that first and then going on to the offense, and that’s hard for him to do as an offensive-minded defenseman. He’s taken that responsibility from Ulfie (Samuelsson) very well and done a real good job with it. When you’re young, that’s the toughest thing to learn for a defenseman.”
He added, “It’s been a lot of fun watching him progress and get better. He’s just gets better every game.”