As the Coyotes look for offense, Radim Vrbata has not scored since opening night.
That’s how players and coaches of the Phoenix Coyotes partly characterized their recent road trip.
Despite winning three of the five games away from Jobing.com Arena, the road trip began in a disastrous fashion. Losing to San Jose and being embarrassed by the Islanders, the Coyotes began their excursion in a most unexpected manner.
The Coyotes came off an energetic opening-night victory over the New York Rangers. With new ownership in the house and capacity crowd waving their rally towels, the Coyotes pushed hard on the accelerator and demonstrated why this could be a strong hockey team.
Then, they regressed into a humbling existence and started the five-game road trip in the most inglorious manner.
Following a few closed-door meetings and a deep gut check, the Coyotes suddenly reversed their downward spin. Recovering from that wretched start, they managed to reel off wins in Detroit, Philadelphia and Carolina. In the process, they legitimized their claim as a competitive team.
“You don’t win three games in a row on the road in this league by doing the wrong things,” said goalie Mike Smith after practice Monday. “Remember, it’s not how you start but how you finish.”
After their longest road trip of the season, the Coyotes have an opportunity to build on their current three-game winning streak.
After turning the trip around dramatically, there were valuable lessons.
“We learned how to stabilize a victory,” said coach Dave Tippett. “Then again, we started out poorly.”
Tippett identified immediate areas of concern.
“We need to work on our discipline,” he said. “In direct relation to that, we take too many penalties. On the positive side, we know how to play and what it takes to win.”
If Tippett is ready break out the chalkboard and play psychologist, this may not be a bad time.
With three tough opponents on the radar screen this week, the Coyotes should be in a position to play careful and productive hockey.
Coming into the Ottawa game, Phoenix is 17th in the league on the power play and 16th in killing penalties.
To that end, Phoenix signed veteran center Jeff Halpern, and the 37-year-old is expected in the lineup for the Ottawa game.
“(Halpern) gives us a right-handed center and a good replacement for Gordon,” Tippett added. “He’s strong on the penalty kill and feel he can help us in that area.”
The Gordon reference is Boyd Gordon, a reliable penalty-killer and dependable center. Gordon signed in the recent offseason with Edmonton.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.