The Phoenix Coyotes are set to start a new season with the sole focus on getting back to the playoffs after missing out during the lockout-shortened season.
One area the team needs to improve on to do so is scoring the puck, as they finished in the bottom third of league in goals per game last year. Head coach Dave Tippett expects the team to be much improved in that facet heading into this campaign.
Tippett told Arizona Sports 620’s Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta Wednesday the additions of free agent Mike Ribeiro and youngster Lucas Lessio will be big for the Coyotes’ offensive attack.
“Ribeiro is one of those guys, I’ve likened him to a little bit of what Ray Whitney did for us, he makes other players around him better,” Tippett said. “We hope that Ribeiro will bring an extra element of skill to us, and help us there, but he’ll also help Doan and Boedker be better offensive players.”
Lessio, a second-round pick in 2011, is the youngest player on the team at 20, and Tippett raved about what he brings to the table.
“Coaches always use catchy words to get their team going,” Tippett said. “Well there’s a word I use all the time, is relentless. Relentless on the puck, relentless on the forecheck. And this guy is the epitome of relentless. He’s an exciting player to watch.”
In 35 games last year with the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, Lessio totaled 19 goals and 15 assists. Tippett said the left winger showed in the preseason he’s ready for the NHL.
“He’s physically mature enough,” Tippett said. “He’s a sound kid, he understands the game very well, but his work ethic and his commitment just to that relentless pursuit of the puck, it’s really top-notch and that’s why he’s earned a job here.”
Tippett added the team is still looking for a top-six forward, as general manager Don Maloney has said publicly. But between the new guys they’ve added and returners like Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata, Tippett hopes the team will have enough goal scoring to support their defense.
“We’ll still play a hard, defending game but hopefully we can have some more people help chip in on the offensive side that helps us get more wins.”