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Off the Ice: Coyotes moving up in the world

Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, right, celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with teammate Kyle Chipchura (24) during first period NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

The Phoenix Coyotes and Sidney Crosby were mentioned on the same page.

That's not really the news, I just thought it was humorous. Anyway, the Coyotes are moving up in the world of NHL standings.

Last week, NHL.com staff writer Dave Lozo ranked the Coyotes as the 13th-best team in the NHL. Not a shameful rank, by any means, but this week things just got better.

According to Lozo, the Coyotes are the eighth-best overall team in the NHL. Let that sink in.

If anything, the Coyotes have been nothing but a surprise this year. Going into the season, I had my doubts, as did many others, as to how the Coyotes would recover from the loss of Ilya Bryzgalov, Ed Jovanovski and Vernon Fiddler.

Enter Mike Smith, David Schlemko and Boyd Gordon.

Smith has quietly entered the conversations about the NHL's top goaltenders, Schlemko is seeing regular ice time against top lines and Gordon, well, he's been sensational with his offensive production and effort on the penalty kill.

Over the past 13 days, the Coyotes faced a tough five-game road trip. They pulled out six of the possible 10 points and beat high-caliber teams like San Jose, Buffalo and Toronto. They may have lost to the Capitals and the Flyers, but those teams were ecstatic to pull out the win. That reaction wouldn't have happened last season.

They may still have a long way to go, but when the Coyotes plop down in front of a big plate of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes on Thursday, they can give thanks to the many strides they have already made this season.

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