The Coyotes had practice today at the Jobing.com arena. They are open to the public and a great way to see the players. You can sit on the new glass you gain a new appreciation for the size of the guys and speed at which they play. When you see Shane Doan barrelling down the right wing with the puck looking to pass to Daymond Langkow in the slot, who is going full speed toward Jason Labarbera in net, it is so much more impressive that what you see on television.
The new glass is excellent to see through and sounds like a hockey hit should. Loud and with reverberations that emphasize the collision that just occurred. I took this picture to show the site lines above and below the glass.
Now to the play. Special teams were worked on for about an hour. 4 on 4, 4 on 5, 5 on 4, they even pulled the goalie for some 6 on 5. With Jovo gone, that spot at the point is open for competition. Coach Tippett rotated forwards and defensemen into that position. The good news is the point is still open. The bad news is that no one stood out from the rest. The shots were not getting through from the point. Working the puck around the top of the face off circle to the blue line was more effective and was able to pull players out of position to open up that shot, but when the shot was taken, it didn’t tickle the twine (thanks to Tyson Nash for that phrase). What stood out to me was the speed of Viktor Tikohonov. Not only is he probably the fastest on the ice, he skates hard and with purpose. He has that physical presence that will allow him to stay in the NHL this season.
The next drill was the cycle. Defense try to take it from the offense. Coach Tippett skated the puck across center ice and then dumped it in, shot it off the boards for a rebound, or a direct shot on the goalie. The offense had to chase down the puck and work the cycle. If defense gained possession, their shift was over and the puck went the opposite direction, repeating the drill with ten new skaters. Lauri Korpikoski had that high level of compete for the forwards Tip desires. He was going hard to the puck, skated well with it, and didn’t let the defense take it away. This is the Korpikoski that had the New York Rangers thinking they had the Calder Cup winner three years ago and what we saw last year. Speed, skill, and an attitude that he will not be denied.
For the defense, Adrian Aucoin turned back the clock. One on one, he was undefeated. You could twist and turn, dish it behind the net, bank it off the boards. It didn’t matter. The Mighty Oak was unshakeable and physical. Schlemko, minus the chin beard, is making his claim for Jovo’s spot in the starting six. He played the point, moved the puck well, and played tough defense. It seems the confidence he gained last year has grown into the knowledge the team needs him to play a larger role.
What really caught my attention is what happened after practice. At one end were D-Men Michal Rosival, OEL, Schlemko, and Brandon Gormley. Forwards Andy Miele and Marc-Antoine Pouliut were with coach John Anderson at the other end. They were the only ones still one the ice after the post practice stretch.
Rosival just kept working on his skating. Hard to center ice, quick direction change and back to the blue line. Over and over. Each side. OEL, Schlemko and Gormley worked on one-timers, shots from the point, shot pass, and moving the puck around the goal. OEL kept shooting and passing so much the tape came off the end of his stick. With the tape dragging, he kept working. All had the same work level as during practice. It wasn’t goof off to avoid off-ice conditioning. It was work.
At the other end, Coach Anderson kept feeding passes across the goal mouth to Miele and Pouliut. Control the puck, put it Top Shelf, Where Momma Hides the Cookies (Rick Jeanneret smiles). Puck after puck. Non-stop. Then Coach Anderson moved behind and to the side of the net and slid the puck forward. Miele and Pouliut were there to receive the puck, then quickly drew the puck to their forehand, quickly went backhand and lifted it into the net. All in one motion. Vernon Fiddler did this at the end of each pre-game skate. By himself. And he was voted the hardest working player by the fans.
Everyone left the ice except Andy and Mark-Antoine. They grabbed a pail and filled it with all the practice pucks still on the ice. Both ends of the ice. Here you have the Hobey Baker Award winner putting in the extra practice, not pulling an attitude, and doing all the little things that will get him a spot on the roster.
Photo credit Frank Mazzocco www.mazzoccophotography.com
Andy, when you are done, please turn out the lights.