DDB: December Schedule will Test Team’s Mettle

Dec 5, 2011, 4:43 PM | Updated: 4:43 pm

The Coyotes are 0 for 2 in December so far with losses at
Winnipeg and vs. Philadelphia already in the books.

It’s not the start they were seeking to the most hectic
month of their season, one in which they’ll be as busy, if
not busier, than the elves in Santa’s Workshop.

Phoenix will play 16 games in the final month of 2011.
They also will play 16 games in March, but their schedule
that month features nine home games. This month, the
Coyotes will play only six games in Glendale.

A closer look at their schedule reveals the Coyotes will
play three sets of back-to-back games in the next 17 days,
and four overall before New Year’s Day. That should prove
challenging considering Phoenix played only two sets of
back-to-back games in the first two months of the season.
A deeper look also reveals that Phoenix will play at least
three games in four nights in every remaining week of the
month.

“December is the most difficult month of our season when
you consider our travel schedule and the number of back-
to-back games we play,” Coyotes General Manager Don
Maloney told me on Sunday via e-mail. “However, we have
been a strong road team this season and I expect us to
show continual improvement. If we can get our power play
back on track and stay relatively healthy, I believe we
can be the leading team in our division.”

The Coyotes left for Chicago on Sunday to play a
nationally televised game against the Blackhawks on Monday
night at the United Center. It will be the start of a
grueling week that features three more games – at
Nashville on Tuesday, at Detroit on Thursday and at home
vs. Minnesota on Saturday. Phoenix will get a three-day
break after the Minnesota game, but after that it’s 10
games in 17 days to close the month.

As daunting as the month ahead appears, keep in mind they
Coyotes have a better road record (7-4-1) than home record
(6-5-2) so far this season. Also keep in mind that Dave
Tippett guided the team to a 16-8-5 record in December in
his first two seasons as head coach.

• Several Coyotes are poised to reach milestones on this
week’s three-game trip:

Defenseman Keith Yandle is on track to play in his 200th
consecutive game on Tuesday at Nashville.

Winger Ray Whitney is two assists away from his 600th NHL
assist.

Forward Paul Bissonnette is two games away from playing in
his 100th career game with the Coyotes.

• The Coyotes on Sunday recalled defenseman Chris Summers
from the American Hockey League.

Per Maloney, Summers will be in the lineup on Monday vs.
Chicago in place of Rostislav Klesla, who was injured late
in Saturday’s game vs. Philadelphia.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com and
follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
For information on upcoming Phoenix Coyotes games, please
visit
http://coyotes.nhl.com

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DDB: December Schedule will Test Team’s Mettle