GLENDALE – After two days away from the rink, the Coyotes practiced for about 90 minutes on Tuesday at Gila River Arena with eyes on the next game on Thursday at home vs. Nashville.
Playing better defense was the theme of Tuesday’s on-ice session.
"We have to defend better, whether it’s box out, one-on-one, under sticks, all of the above," Head Coach Dave Tippett said after practice.
The Coyotes have allowed 89 goals this season in 28 games. Only Dallas (94) and Edmonton (90) have given up more, but both of those teams have played 27 games.
To combat this trend, the Coyotes are focusing on winning more battles in the defensive zone and spending less time there.
"I think those things go hand in hand and that is a weak part of our game right now and has had a direct translation into losses," defenseman Connor Murphy said. "We’ve got to take responsibility for that and be accountable, and everyone is going to go into these next games with that mindset."
The Coyotes did not practice Sunday. Instead the players and coaches attended the team’s holiday party. On Monday, they helped Arizona Coyotes Foundation volunteers restore a playground in Glendale.
"It’s always nice to get away for a couple days this time of year," forward Brandon McMillan said. "It’s a long season and it’s very physically and mentally draining so it’s nice to get away for a couple days and get your mind off hockey and kind of regroup. I think that was a really good refresher for all the guys and we had a really good practice today. Hopefully we can have another good one tomorrow and it can take us into the weekend."
• Tippett said he’d be surprised if forward David Moss didn’t play in Thursday’s game vs. Nashville. Moss has not played since suffering an upper-body injury vs. Minnesota on Oct. 23 – a span of 22 games.
Meanwhile, Tippett said defenseman Brandon Gormley is progressing nicely from his lower-body injury but he may need a few more days of practice before returning to the lineup.
• Forward Jordan Martinook played 11:56 in his NHL debut on Saturday vs. Boston. The 22-year-old took two shots on goal and delivered two hits.
"I thought he was solid in the first game," Tippett said. "Good energy, quick on pucks."
• Goalie Mike Smith said recently that in order for the Coyotes to start winning consistently the team needs more from its top players, including himself.
"It starts with the best players that we have - the players that are paid the most to be difference makers in games - and until our best players are our best players every single night, we're going to be struggling," Smith said.