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Michalek is one of the unsung heroes for the Coyotes this season
This is the unit that will determine whether or not the team will repeat last year's heroics. If they can play well in front of goaltender Mike Smith, they will limit the damage other teams can do and give the offense a fighting chance to bang home a couple of goals. They need to focus on playing Coyotes hockey: tough, physical brand that focuses on the execution of the little things to achieve overall team success.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is quickly becoming a star in this league. He is tied for the lead with Keith Yandle in points scored by a Coyotes defenseman and is tied for 12th overall in the league for points by a defenseman. He has scored three goals to go along with seven assists for 10 points in 17 games. He leads the team in plus/minus rating with a plus five. He has scored three points on the power play as he and Yandle quarterback the top power play unit.
Yandle has also been very good this season. His speed and agility help him be solid defensively but also make him a threat offensively. He has also scored 10 points, netting two goals and collecting eight assists in 17 games. The versatile defenseman has also played well in his own end of the ice as he has a plus two rating this season.
Derek Morris has played very well coming off of a year in which pundits questioned whether or not he had "it" anymore. Morris came into camp in tip-top shape and his play this season has silenced many of those pundits. He has regained the spring in his step and has returned to being a solid two-way defenseman for the franchise. He has five points on five assists this season, but his worth tends to be measured in winning those tough, physical battles on the boards in his own end.
David Schlemko has been in and out of the lineup this season, but through 17 games has proved he is the most reliable option for the Coyotes sixth defensive spot. He has collected two assists this season. but has played well as a stay-at-home defenseman for the squad.
Zybnek Michalek is the unsung hero of this team. He has been unbelievable defensively, and his shot blocking borders on the ridiculous. He throws himself with reckless abandon at the puck, all for his team to succeed. His reliable defensive play allows Ekman-Larsson to roam up ice and pick up valuable points from the blue line. This has been the acquisition of the offseason for the Coyotes as they re-acquired Michalek from the Penguins.
Rostislav Klesla is built in the same mode as Michalek. A selfless defenseman who doesn't do much flashy, but contributes greatly to the success of his team. He is physical, has a nasty streak, plays solid D and isn't afraid to sacrifice his body for the greater glory. Dave Tippett must be in love with these final two defenseman because they embody everything he stands for.
Three other Coyotes defenseman must be named: Chris Summers, David Rundblad and Michael Stone. All three have had their struggles this season. Combined, they are a total minus 12 this season. They will need to improve their defensive play if they are to get back into the lineup on a consistent basis.