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YANDLE MAKING THE MOST OF HIS OPPORTUNITY

by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes
By: Matt Rosen

Photo Credit: Getty Images

It's a known fact that injuries happen in sports. Players get hurt all the time. From sprained ankles to broken bones, injuries are a common occurrence. When an injury happens, everyone is just hoping that it's not serious and that the player(s) will make a full recovery. In addition, teams hope that the injury(s) won't impact the teams' performance in a negative way.

But with injury comes opportunity and with opportunity comes a chance to show the world that you are an NHL player; a chance to show that you belong playing in the National Hockey League.

When the Phoenix Coyotes 2006-07 training camp came to a close and the final roster was announced, defenseman Keith Yandle was assigned to the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League (AHL), but the Coyotes knew they had a special player waiting in the wings. Yandle caught the attention of the Coyotes management and coaching staff throughout camp and it was a tough decision not to keep him on the final roster.

"I didn't really think I was going to make the team," said Yandle, "I thought I gave myself a pretty good chance and it's pretty easy playing with the guys that you are playing with out here."

During the third game of the season in Columbus, defenseman Keith Ballard blocked a shot, and in the process fractured his wrist thereby sidelining the rising star for up to five weeks. With injury comes opportunity.

That same day, Yandle received a call from Rampage Head Coach Pat Conacher, informing him of the news that he was to board a plane the next morning and meet the Coyotes in Detroit. For Yandle, his opportunity had arrived.

"I was eating dinner and Pat Conacher called me and said pack your stuff, you're getting sent up in the morning you are leaving at eight in the morning," said Yandle. "That whole few days were very exiting for me and my family."

Yandle has played in three NHL games entering Phoenix's contest against the Los Angeles Kings on October 19th and feels comfortable at the NHL level.

"I think (playing) in the exhibition games was a big help for me, just playing against all of the NHL guys," said Yandle. "Most of the teams that I played against had a full lineup it's been awesome."

As a young player, Yandle seems to understand the things he does well on the ice and listens intently to what the coaching wants to see from him.

"They want me to play off my offensive abilities, they want me to play the way I can, I think that's the reason why they took me, is so I can bring some offense," said Yandle. "Every part of my game has got to be sound to play at this level."

Just two years ago, Yandle was playing high school hockey in Massachusetts, today he is wearing a Coyotes emblem across his chest and playing against the best players the world has to offer. Something he still is in shock over.

"I didn't think I'd be playing (in Phoenix) this year, I was hoping in the next few years maybe to make it here, but it's been a dream come true to make it this far so quick."

Yandle is making a case for himself to be a mainstay along the Phoenix blueline. Some may wonder what will happen when Keith Ballard comes back from his injury, but that is not something that Yandle is concerning himself with at this time.

"I can't really worry about that," said Yandle. "I just have to worry about playing my game. That's not up to me, that decision is up to the coaches. I just have to go out there and play my game and give myself the best shot to stick around here."

With the way Keith Yande has played in his brief NHL career, he may be sticking around for quite some time.

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