Despite steep competition for an up-coming playoff spot, Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle says he is not the only Coyote player who deserves to skate in the All-Star Game.
On the bubble for post-season positioning, Phoenix has several players contributing on this quest for the playoffs, but one only was recognized as strong enough for All-Star consideration.
When rosters were recently announced, Yandle was the lone Phoenix selection but the names of forwards Ray Whitney and Radium Vrbata were left amid the saguaros and geckos. Only Yandle emerged from the selection process, and the native of Boston now represents Phoenix for the second straight season.
“I thought both (Whitney and Vrbata) were coming,” Yandle said prior to the Coyotes home game with Colorado Jan. 16. “These guys are having great seasons and should be recognized.”
Instead, Yandle gets a consecutive trip to one of the NHL’s showcase events.
Coming into the Colorado game, he stood 11th in the league in scoring among defensemen. His five goals and 20 assists is behind NHL leader Erik Karlsson of Ottawa (9-38, 38 points). Last season, Yandle finished third among defenseman in scoring when he picked up 11 goals and assisted on 48 others.
With a clear, offensive style, Yandle said the wide-open nature of the All-Star game is well suited on his approach the game.
“Not much emphasis on defense on this one,” he smiled. “That’s my style, shooting and moving the puck. In this game, you don’t have to worry about your own end too much.”
Yandle may have gained this selection on reputation, but those close to his day-to-day operation recognize his value.
“Keith is a kind of player who makes something out of nothing,” said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. “He is a highly skilled player and the way he plays the game clearly makes us a better team.”
Yandle will be joined defensemen Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins; Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers; Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators; Shea Weber, Nashville Predators; Dan Girardi, New York Rangers; Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers; Alex Edler, Vancouver Canucks; Dennis Wideman, Washington Capitals, and Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets.
The forwards are Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks; Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins; Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres; Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames; Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars; Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild; John Tavares, New York Islanders;
Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins; Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs; Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs; Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks; Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks; and Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Benn is currently on the injured reserved list and will be replaced.
The six starters voted by the fans are Daniel Alfredsson, Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza of the host Ottawa Senators, Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.
Regarding the format of captains selecting each team, Yandle is clearly in favor of the “draft” system. Here, the two captains, still to be designated, will choose players for their respective team.
This is the straight second year for this design. The NHL abandoned the Conference vs. Conference set-up, East vs. West and NHL vs. The World in a previous format.
“The draft is great way to field the teams,” Yandle said. “This way, we’ll have an opportunity to play with players from the East. If we had the old way, we would only have guys from the West on the team and I guess we see those players enough during the season.”
ON THE ICE
Against Colorado Jan. 16, the Coyotes reached a season-high in goals scored with a 6-1 victory over Colorado before 12,757 at Jobing.com Arena.
Previously, they scored five in a game on three other times, and the last time was a 5-1 win over the Islanders Jan. 7.
In the process, defensive specialist Boyd Gordon picked up his the initial two goal game of his NHL career. First, he converted a pass from Whitney into his fourth of the season at 16:37 of the second and then poked in his own rebound from the crease at 5:31 of the final period.
Afterward, Gordon said he could not remember his last two goal game, and only it at the junior level when he was playing for Red Deer.
“You just can’t think defense all the time,” Gordon said. “You have to be ready when chances come your way. I was playing with two pretty good offensive players, so you have to watch for chances.”
Here, Gordon referred to linemates Lauri Korpikoski and Vrbata.
In his third game with the Coyotes, forward Gilbert Brule picked up a goal and assist. A former first round pick of Columbus in the 2005 draft, the 25 year old was claimed on waivers from Edmonton Jan. 10, and seems to fit ideally in the Coyotes locker room.
After bouncing around the NHL for the past few seasons, Brule seems a comfortable fit for Phoenix.
“Sometimes, a fresh start is all a player needs,” said Tippett. “So far, Brule’s work ethic is strong and the guys have accepted him. From this point, we’ll just see what happens.”
ELSEWHERE … Phoenix defenseman Chris Summers recorded his first NHL point when he assisted on Shane Doan’s second goal of the game at 10:54 of the second period against the Avs. Summers later assisted on Gordon‘s second of the game at 5:31 of the third period…Gordon also recorded his 100th career NHL point on his second goal against Colorado. … Doan’s two goals against the Avs was the 40th time in his NHL career the Phoenix captain has scored two or more in a game. … Five different players achieved multi-points games against the Avs. Brule had a goal and an assist, Doan with two goals, Gordon with two goals, Yandle had two assists, and Summers two assists. … The afternoon game against Colorado is the only matinee on the Coyotes home schedule. The Desert Dogs also have an afternoon game at Edmonton on Feb. 25.
EDITOR’S NOTE - Quotes in this story were obtained by the author prior and after to the Colorado at Phoenix, Jan. 16, 2012.