Pundits like to point to special teams as one barometer of success.
In the case of the Phoenix Coyotes, one may argue the glass is half-full and half-empty. While the Coyotes’ power play has improved over failures of the past season, their ability to kill penalties remains marginal.
For that reason, the Coyotes are one of the most porous teams when skating with the man disadvantage.
To be fair, injuries factor into this equation, but the Coyotes have been consistent in allowing power-play goals.
Coming into Wednesday night’s game with Calgary, the Coyotes surrendered at least one power-play goal in 11 of their previous 16 games. For the season, that’s a 77.2 percentage and good enough for 27th in the league. Only Florida, Chicago and the Islanders have a lower percentage.
“We’ve talked about battling harder,” said defenseman Michael Stone. “It’s about being in the right place at the right time.”
While the Coyotes have made strides on their power play, injuries have compromised their full ability to kill penalties.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek remains out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, and his lack of playing time is critical. Among the NHL leaders in blocked shots, Michalek is fearless around the net. Giving the Coyotes what head coach Dave Tippett described as “hard minutes,” Michalek’s value in killing penalties cannot be overlooked.
The 30-year-old native of Jindrichuv Hradec in the Czech Republic last skated against the Blackhawks in Chicago on Nov. 14. Since his injury, the Coyotes allowed seven power-play goals in seven games.
Additionally, forward Lauri Korpikoski has been nursing an upper-body injury and has not played since he scored at home on Nov. 16 against Tampa Bay.
In several penalty-killing situations, Tippett puts Korpikoski out with Martin Hanzal. Korpikoski’s presence as a penalty-killer is important and Tippett has had to scramble to find an adequate replacement.
Tippett started the season with Korpikoski on the left wing with Hanzal at center and Radim Vrbata on the right wing.
Korpikoski is on the current road trip through western Canada and Tippett said just before leaving after practice on Monday that Korpikoski could likely play on the trip.
For now, the Coyotes need to stay out of the penalty box and not put the team at any disadvantage.
“It’s an attitude,” said Tippett. “Once you stop on the ice, you just have to play better. I look at the big picture. To be an elite team, you have to play like an elite team. That means in all aspects of the game.”
Without major hints, Tippett continues to reference penalty killing as a major component in his overall criteria of failure or success.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.