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Coyotes expect to cut out defensive letdowns

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Phoenix Coyotes won't get any of their key injured players back for Tuesday night's road game against the Vancouver Canucks, but coach Dave Tippett expects his team to get back to its defense-first approach after a couple of letdowns.

It was missing when Phoenix uncharacteristically blew consecutive leads against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames to start this three-game road trip. They lost in a shootout in Edmonton on Saturday after blowing a two-goal lead, and in regulation to Calgary the next night after giving up two goals in the final 1:23 to lose 5-4.

"Maybe a wake-up call for our group," captain Shane Doan said.

The rare defensive letdowns can be partly explained by the continued absence of veteran defenseman Derek Morris, who skated hard on Tuesday morning, but will miss a fifth game. Fellow defender David Schlemko, who signed a two-year, $2.38-million contract extension on Monday, has been out for three weeks with a shoulder injury.

"Derek Morris has probably been one of, if not our best player when he is in the lineup," Doan said. "Hopefully we get him back soon."

In the meantime, the Coyotes have to get back to their defensive identity, especially since they will also still be without top scoring forwards Radim Vrbata (lower body) and Martin Hanzal (upper body).

"That's not who we are," Tippett said of the blown leads. "The number of chances allowed the last couple of games, we haven't been happy with. Not necessarily quality chances, but the amount of chances against were just a byproduct of us playing a little looser than we need to. We're a team that we've found ways to score goals this year, but when we start playing loose and giving up two many opportunities against, it's just not a good recipe for success for us."

Here's how the Coyotes are expected to look as they try to rediscover a better recipe against a Canucks team coming off an equally uncharacteristic 8-3 loss in Detroit on Sunday:

Mikkel BoedkerAntoine VermetteShane Doan

David MossBoyd GordonRaffi Torres

Steve SullivanMatt LombardiLauri Korpikoski

Paul BissonnetteKyle ChipchuraNick Johnson

Keith YandleRostislav Klesla

Zbynek MichalekOliver Ekman-Larsson

Michael StoneDavid Rundblad

Mike Smith

Jason LaBarbera

Scratched: Chris Summers, who switches spots with Stone.

Injured: Martin Hanzal (upper body), Derek Morris, David Schlemko (shoulder), Radim Vrbata (lower body)

Notes: Vrbata, who is tied for the team lead with 12 points despite missing three games, was back on the ice Monday.

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