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Youthful line provides important spark to Coyotes

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Three days after posting their most thrilling win of the season, the Phoenix Coyotes have to face the team that handed then their most embarrassing loss.

Down 4-1 to Detroit after two periods, the Coyotes rallied for three goals in the third period and pulled out a 5-4 win when Radim Vrbata scored the only goal of the shootout. The win snapped a five-game losing streak and the play of Phoenix's young forwards -- Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris and Brett MacLean -- played a key role in the win, producing 2 goals, 2 assists and lots of energy from their line.

The trio prefers an up-tempo game and they will be asked to provide more of the same Tuesday when the NHL's best team, the Vancouver Canucks, return to Arena. Vancouver last came to town on Feb. 2 and handed the Coyotes their lunch in a 6-0 loss that was a low point in Phoenix's season.

Asked what has to be different this time against Vancouver, coach Dave Tippett smiled and said, "Everything. They scored six and we scored none, so I'd say a good place to start is to don't give up six and score more than none."

Phoenix still holds the seventh seed in the West with 78 points, but it's a precarious perch with a gaggle of teams on their heels and the fact that the Coyotes have fewer games to play than all the other contenders. A sweep of the Red Wings and Canucks would go a long way toward erasing the recent 0-4-1 hiccup that put the team back in a vulnerable position.

Boedker (21), Turris (21) and MacLean (24) combined for 65 goals last season with San Antonio in the AHL and their chemistry as a unit shows on the ice.

Boedker started the comeback against the Red Wings, swallowing up a Detroit turnover and scoring 2:04 into the third period. Turris had what Tippett called "his best game of the season," scoring his 11th goal of the season in the first period and setting up Ray Whitney to make it a 4-3 game and turning the momentum completely toward Phoenix.

"We are comfortable and creative together. We're trying to chip in wherever we can and earn Tip's confidence," said Turris, who has 22 points this season and has become a power-play mainstay. "I played all year with Brett and a lot with Bods and then we're all out there, it's good for us. We know what the other likes to go and it keeps things simple."

Tippett has been very careful with his young players after Turris, Boedker and others were rushed to the NHL two years ago with negative results. Turris has remained in Phoenix most of the season, and the Coyotes moved Scottie Upshall to Columbus at the trade deadline not only to acquire defenseman Rostislav Klesla but to make room for Boedker on left wing.
MacLean, who led San Antonio in goals (16) and points (37) after a 30-goal season last year, has made only cameo appearances in Phoenix -- he scored in his NHL debut against Los Angeles on Dec. 28 but the Detroit game was only his second since. The trio played together in that game as well but Tippett only saw flashes of what he was looking for.

"They had a couple of games when they were real good and a couple that didn't go as well for them," Tippett said. "But (against Detroit) they played very well when they were together. They brought a lot of speed and energy.

"All three have continued to mature and they are all going to be very good NHL players. But that maturity process -- the ability to stick with the game and with those battles -- takes awhile. You can see that maturity growing all of them."

The Canucks are cruising along with a League-best 93-points and have swept through Southern California with wins over the Kings and Duck by a combined 6-1 score before meeting another potential first-round playoff opponent in the Coyotes. Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin rank first and third in the NHL in scoring, and the Canucks rank second in both power play and penalty killing -- two areas where the Coyotes are struggling mightily of late. Phoenix's special teams have been outscored 12-2 over the last six games.
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