If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
That’s an old axiom, but it's true. The way the Phoenix Coyotes are playing these days, there appears no need to make a major deal, tweak the personnel or otherwise make any changes for the sake of the future.
After coming from behind to defeat the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 in a shootout Feb. 21 at home, the Coyotes picked up their eighth win in their last nine games. The only blemish was a 2-1 shootout loss at Vancouver Feb. 13. Otherwise, the Coyotes have lost only twice in regulation time in their last 15 games to Feb. 21.
The result is a seventh place position in the Western Conference, and reaching for greater playoff placement.
With the trading deadline February 27, the Coyotes may not be in the market for any major shake-up.
Mike Smith is keeping Phoenix in nearly every hockey game, and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is emerging to complement veterans Adrian Aucoin, Michal Rozsival, Keith Yandle and Rostislav Kiesla on the blue line. Radim Vrbata is gaining stature among the top goal scorers in the league.
The Coyotes do not appear in any great need.
If we have an opportunity add some depth, I’m sure we’ll take a look at that, said captain Shane Doan, after scoring a pair against the Kings. Then again, we’re playing well and you hate to see players leave. I’m glad I’m not the general manager.
That would be Don Maloney, and the past two years in which the Coyotes made a playoff run, he acquired key players. Two years ago, forwards Lee Stempniak and Michael Lombardi became important additions. Last season, Maloney picked up defenseman Kiesla for the stretch drive.
This time, the Coyotes do not appear to be in a hurry to make headlines or add to the transaction wire. Instead, the team is quietly coming together at perhaps the most critical time of the season.
“This is the group in which you want to go to battle,” said Yandle. “You never want to see your friends be moved, but it’s not my call.”
With several players nursing injuries, Maloney may try and add bodies in the interim. Taylor Pyatt, Derek Morris and Kiesla all sat out the L. A. game, and defenseman Chris Summers and Michael Stone, recent recalls from the AHL Portland Pirates, filled in at the blue line.
During the Kings game, add forward Gilbert Brule (three goals in 16 games) to the list of the injured. He was struck in the head when hit with a driving elbow from L. A. forward Lyle Clifford. Clifford was given a match penalty with the intent to injure, and Vrbata scored on the power play at 17:33 of the third period to create a 4-4 tie.
As a result of the hit, Clifford was suspended until further review by NHL officials.
The Coyotes then pulled this out when Ray Whitney and Mikkel Boedker scored in the shootout.
Given the recent rash of injuries, Maloney will likely shop around for some immediate help. In that regard, the Coyotes may make a minor deed or two, but nothing significant.
“The chemistry on this team is good, and that’s something I don’t want to lose,” said coach Dave Tippett. “I think you’re always looking for ways to improve but I don’t think we’ll do anything big.”
On the Ice
Down 3-0 to the Kings and goalie Jonathan Quick, who came into the game with a 1.87 goals against and L. A. as the third best defensive team in the league, the Coyotes showed resiliency.
When Vrbata and Doan scored each on the power play early in the second period, that cut the lead to 3-2. Then, the Kings’ Justin Williams beat Smith in close midway through the second period, but Doan again late in the second, and Vrbata again with two-and-a-half minutes left forced this one into overtime.
Then, the shootout win boosted the Phoenix record at the end of play Feb. 21 to 69 points and tied it with San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division.
“I thought this game was a great learning experience for us,” Tippett said. “This is the kind of game which continues to build the belief system that you can win.”
After a brief two-game road trip to Calgary and Edmonton to close out this week, the Coyotes return to Jobing.com Arena for a three-game home stand. First in is Vancouver on Feb. 28 and Calgary and Columbus follow.
EDITOR’S NOTE - Quotes in this story were obtained by the author in postgame Los Angeles at Phoenix interviews, Feb. 21, 2012.