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Preseason games will decide which rookies make Coyotes roster

Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, far right, talks to his players during NHL hockey training camp, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Coyotes rookie game schedule


6 p.m. at Los Angeles Kings (Toyota Sports Center)


2 p.m. at Los Angeles Kings (Toyota Sports Center)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The first three days of Coyotes rookie camp were productive. The team’s AHL and NHL coaching staffs met all week to outline the style they want to play and to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of personnel. There were teaching moments for the players involving defensive concepts, puck play and special teams.

If you were hoping to discern which players have a leg up in the race to make the roster, however, you’re going to have to wait until the team’s rookie squad takes on the Kings’ rookies on Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles.

“The games are where you define yourself as a player,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “Games are won and lost. A player’s contributions in a game go a long way toward evaluating where a player is — young or old.”

While the first three days of rookie camp were akin to handing players a how-to manual, these two games and the Coyotes’ six preseason games as a full squad will provide the vast majority of the evaluation general manager Don Maloney, Tippett and their staffs need to decide who makes the roster and who does not.

“You can be a really good practice player and not be good in games,” said forward Henrik Samuelsson, one of several players on the bubble of making this team. “The games are the most important; that’s how you’re going to make the team.”

The competition is a little tougher than it was in past years, Tippett said. The Coyotes already have their top seven defenseman in place, they have their two goalies and most of the forward lines are set with the exception of anywhere from two to four roster spots.

When Tippett took in three days of practice from the bird’s eye view of the Gila River Arena stands, he saw something he hadn’t seen in his previous six seasons in Arizona.

“We’ve seen talent but probably not the depth of talent,” he said. “So many players in this (rookie) camp that you look at, they’ve got a shot to make our team, too. We’ve never been in that position before.”

Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak, Dylan Strome and Samuelsson are all hoping to make the roster this year, but forwards Tyler Gaudet, Laurent Dauphin, Michael Bunting, Ryan MacInnis, Christian Fischer and Nick Merkley are also part of the team’s future.

While most analysts assume Domi and even Duclair will make the opening-night roster, Tippett issued a friendly reminder in advance of these two games.

“Nobody has made the team yet,” he said. “To get to the NHL you have to earn your way there. You earn your way by how you play.”

The Coyotes have 18 forwards in rookie camp, so they’ll have to do some tinkering to see which players suit up in Los Angeles.

“We have six lines so we’re going to try to get everybody opportunity the best we can,” said Springfield Falcons coach Ron Rolston, who has been running the rookie camp workouts. “That being said, we also want to watch certain players and see how they do, so we may give guys more opportunity to play.”


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