With a rash of injuries hitting key NHL personnel, the Phoenix Coyotes are not immune.
First, dependable winger Taylor Pyatt was injuried during a fight at Pittsburgh Dec. 20 and remains out with an upper body injury; right winger Radim Vrbata also remains on the shelf with an upper body injury. Combined, they have scored 14 goals and accounted for 28 points.
More importantly, as far as the continuing fate of the Coyotes is concerned, was the absence of goal tender Ilya Bryzgalov, who is considered the cornerstone of the franchise. Nursing a lower body injury, Bryzgalov missed the five games in December and joined other NHL stars, including the Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary, the Sabres' leading scorer Derek Roy and Jason Spezza of Ottawa, on the injured list.
Jason LaBarbera filled in for Bryzgalov and went 2-2 with one tie. Bryzgalov returned Dec. 29 against Anaheim at home and showed his rust. It was not a particularly stellar return for Bryzgalov.
The Coyotes dropped a 3-1 decision to Anaheim before 14,032 at Jobing.com Arena.
With the loss to the Ducks Dec. 28, Phoenix fell to 2-4-1 in its previous seven games. During that period, the Coyotes' offense remained missing-in-action. In its last four games, including the loss to Anaheim, Phoenix has managed only one goal a piece.
"Chasing teams is not our forte as a team," said Dave Tippett, the Phoenix coach. "When you're not lighting up the building like we are right now, giving up three early is something you really don't like."
In allowing those three goals on the Ducks' opening nine shots, Bryzgalov was clearly shaky. When Anaheim defenseman Luca Sbisa drilled in a 40 footer from the left point at 4:38 of the opening frame on the initial goal, that was just the Ducks' second shot on net.
"When you give up three goals like that early, it's not rocket science what you have to do to come back," said captain Shane Doan. "Right now, we're not scoring very much, and need to find more offense from everyone."
The Coyotes' attempt at redemption was limited. Doan scored with a two-man advantage at 15:39 of the second period, but Phoenix could draw no closer.
In the final session, the Coyotes had another two-man advantage, this time for 37 seconds, and could not score.
To their credit, the Ducks managed to shut off any Phoenix threat of rally. Goaltender Jonas Hiller, strong throughout, added another reason for the Coyotes to come away from this one miserable; the 28 year old stopped 31 of 32 shots and appeared to frustrate the Coyotes throughout the night.
"They had some good chances in the first period, but the defense played well in front of me," Hiller said. "We had guys boxing out, and that did not give them too many rebounds. We made it tough for them in front of the net."
Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf took a Doan shot from 10 feet to his forehead and left the game, four and one-half minutes into the second period, bleeding profusely.
The preliminary report was a laceration of the forehead and the number of stitches was unknown. Getzlaf is Anaheim's second leading scorer and has not missed a game so far this season. Doan's goal was his fifth of the season and his first since Dec. 11, when he scored twice against Dallas.
The Coyotes conclude a back-to-back, two game home stand Thursday Dec. 30 against the Kings.