The buzzword tonight: Discipline
Two Hall of Fame players go at it tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. But both will be behind the bench, not
| Phoenix Head Coach Wayne Gretzky earned his first career win against the Wild on October 8. |
on the ice. Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire and Phoenix Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky have faced each other once this season, and they like what they’ve seen from their opponents.
“The success of their hockey team is pretty simple in that they are probably one of the most disciplined teams in the National Hockey League. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and they don’t beat themselves. They play hard as a group, so the success that we have against this team means we have to be on the same page.
We have to limit our mistakes and play as hard as they do.”
Jacques Lemaire feels the Coyotes won’t have a problem with that. He said he has seen the Coyotes make a huge leap in terms of discipline in his opinion.
“His team is getting more disciplined than they were at the start. Maybe they were nervous at the start. Their guys were working, but not as a team. Now, there is a huge difference. When you look at (Phoenix), you can tell they are disciplined and they don’t give too many chances.”
Pipeline To The Desert
| Baudette-native Keith Ballard has developed into a favorite of his head coach, Wayne Gretzky. |
Phoenix head coach Wayne Gretzky’s roster is flush with Minnesota connections, especially at defense. Baudette-native and member of two National Championship Gopher teams, Keith Ballard has logged over 20 minutes a game. Former Wild blueliner Zbynek Michalek (the player traded to Phoenix in exchange for Apple Valley-native Erik Westrum) has played 17 games for Phoenix, as has Hill Murray graduate, defenseman David Tanabe. Sean O’Donnell, a member of the Wild’s inaugural season team, and the first captain in team history now has an “A” on his Coyotes jersey.
Gretzky has been thoroughly impressed by Ballard in particular, and he was quick to praise his rookie.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” raved Gretzky on Tuesday morning. “He plays with an intensity that I’ve only seen in a few players in my lifetime. His passion for the game is truly remarkable. He plays physical and takes the body all the time.
We are thrilled with his play. He’s been tremendous for us and he’s been a pleasure to coach.”
The Minnesota Wild have the top-ranked penalty kill unit in the National Hockey League. The unit was in top form in the last two games, holding San Jose and Anaheim to just one total goal in 17 power play situations. That’s not necessarily a good thing says Lemaire.
“I think we’re going to get more injuries if we keep that up,” said Lemaire. “More pulled groins. Some of the forwards are playing 25 minutes, and that’s too much.”
Lemaire cites the desire of his players to succeed as one of the reasons for the high penalty volume.
“The guys are working hard and I can see that they want to do well and push as hard as they can. They don’t want the other guy to leave with the puck, and when it happens, they have a tendency to hook or grab the guy. But they have to be in control and know when to skate back, even when you’re tired.”
As far as why the Wild have done so well on the PK… “Goalies stop the puck,” said Lemaire with a smile.
Look for the same lineup tonight that won back-to-back games in San Jose and Anaheim over the weekend. Marian Gaborik (hip flexor), Marc Chouinard (shoulder), Andrei Zyuzin (knee) and Todd White (groin) will not play tonight.