Arizona Coyotes to endure greater intensity with break in the rearview
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It doesn’t get any easier from here.
The Arizona Coyotes were back on the ice in Scottsdale on Thursday after being on a weeklong break that included the All-Star festivities and a league-mandated “bye week.” Well-rested and a few steps closer to greater health, the team’s next game is coming up on Saturday at San Jose.
Some teams, however, have resumed play already.
“I watched some of the games yesterday, it seems like everybody’s more intense, and it should be. Because there’s a lot at stake,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “There’s a lot at stake to get to the next level.”
The Coyotes are two points out of the playoffs.
“You could have two bad weeks and you could be out of it,” Tocchet said.
Including Arizona, there are four teams within three points of the second Western Conference wild card spot, currently occupied by Colorado: the Coyotes, Oilers, Blues, Ducks and Canucks. Arizona has 32 games left to play.
“I showed the team the schedule — I hate to do that, because you guys know I just like to worry about one game at a time — but we’ve got 14 games in 28 days. For us, it’s the elements of the identity — the hard work and the details. To sustain where we are, that identity has to be our focus every night.”
For their sake, hopefully the break got them ready for what’s at stake. A group of players went to Aspen, Colo., Tocchet went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to visit his son, who plays lacrosse there, and others stayed in the Valley. Tocchet even made it out to the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Wednesday.
–Oliver Ekman-Larsson (knee) skated with the Coyotes on Thursday and wore a normal jersey, as opposed to a non-contact jersey. He participated fully in practice and will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip this weekend.
“I thought he skated well,” Tocchet said. “He was trying to push it. We were a little nervous obviously last week but we’re starting to get some good news with it. Whether he plays, I’m not quite sure yet. … We want him to play, but we don’t want to put him in harm’s way.”
–Christian Dvorak (upper-body) wore non-contact jersey in practice Thursday and didn’t participate in all of the drills. Tocchet said he’d be practicing full soon, but still non-contact for “a while.” He also alluded to the difficulty of Dvorak getting back in the lineup after not having played all season, and even hinted he could see a game in Tucson first, though that remains to be decided.
–Jason Demers, Brad Richardson and Michael Grabner are all skating, but not with the team in practice. Richardson is going to get more imaging done on his hand soon for re-evaluation, while Grabner (eye) still needs to have full vision and skate with traffic in front of him before he can be cleared to play.
“Demers, I hate to say he’s ahead of schedule but he’s doing a really good job in his rehab. He’s skating pretty well out there.”
The trade deadline is still a ways away — not until Feb. 25 — but with the Coyotes just two points out of a playoff spot, the question becomes, what should the team do?
“We’ve been preparing for the trade deadline, or the opportunity to make some moves, all season,” general manager John Chayka told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Wednesday. “I think where we’re at, we’re looking for moves that make sense not only in the short term here but moves that make sense in the long term.”
While the team is in a good spot all things considered, adding a “rental” player to boost the Coyotes into the playoffs may not make sense if they feel their string of injuries has critically hurt their depth.
“We’re not looking at the rental market as strongly as maybe other teams are,” Chayka said. “I think we’re looking to improve our group, if there’s a move out there that makes sense to do so, we will. I’m having a lot of discussions right now.
“Right now’s a very active time and I think you’re laying a lot of the groundwork that hopefully in the next few weeks you find one or two good opportunities that will help add to your group, supplement your group and help us kind of make a push now and into the future.”
A day after the hashtag #BellLetsTalk stormed the internet to fight against the stigma of mental health issues, the Coyotes announced Thursday that their next home game, on Feb. 7 against the Blue Jackets, will be “Yotes Talk” night.
Per the team’s release:
Fans are encouraged to join the conversation by sharing personal experiences or messages of support via social media by using the hashtag #YotesTalk. #YotesTalk Night will raise awareness about mental health through a variety of outlets, including in-arena messaging, online storytelling, and sharing information and experiences at the Coyotes versus Blue Jackets game on Feb. 7.
A statement from the Coyotes said defenseman Jakob Chychrun recently visited The New Foundation in Scottsdale to support kids battling mental health issues. “Their therapeutic programs and services are designed to assist youth, aged 11 to 17, in overcoming significant behavioral mental health issues affecting their daily lives,” the statement said.
For every retweet Chychrun gets on a video that he’ll tweet out on the day of the game, he’ll personally donate $0.06 to The New Foundation.
Chychrun’s first cousin, Daron, was the daughter of Montreal Canadiens assistant Luke Richardson and died of suicide in 2010 at age 14. The Coyotes support the “Do it for Daron” movement, which raises awareness about suicide and young mental health.
Coyotes players will wear “DIFD” stickers on their helmets during the game, and Coyotes coaching staff and management will wear special ties in a nod to “Do it for Daron,” as well.