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Off the Ice: Are lineup shifts sparking Mike Ribeiro’s play?

Sometimes change is a good thing.

And in the case of Phoenix Coyotes center Mike Ribeiro, it could be the spark that gets him going.

The highly-touted free agent, who signed with Phoenix over the summer, has posted a point in each of his last four games, including his first goal in a Coyotes sweater on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.

With under four minutes left in the game and the Coyotes down by one, Ribeiro placed himself in front of goalie Craig Anderson’s net. Defenseman Oliver Ekmna-Larsson hit a slapshot from the point and it deflected off Ribeiro to tie the game at three. It was the Coyotes’ only power play goal of the night.

“He was pretty good [Tuesday],” said head coach Dave Tippett. “We got him with a couple workers.”

Ribeiro, who was expected to give Phoenix’s struggling offense a boost, is currently on a four-game point streak, thanks to his goal. However, despite the streak, he still looks lost at time on the ice. Perhaps that’s more of a testament to his talent than his getting adjusted.

“His game is coming. I still don’t think it’s where it needs to be, but it’s coming.”

Ribeiro’s game certainly isn’t at the levels he is capable of, but it is sputtering along. After failing to tally a point in his first three games as a Coyote, Ribeiro looks to be moving into his stride, albeit painfully slow at times. Overall, it seems as if Ribs is still trying to fit in to his role under Dave Tippett.

“Ribeiro’s an interesting guy because the game goes along but then all of a sudden something will happen where he can have an effect on the game,” Tippett said Tuesday.

Again, that seems more of a testament to Ribeiro’s skill than adjustment to the Coyotes’ system, but the line changes seem to be benefiting Riberio. He has bounced around this season and seen time with several different players on several different lines. At one point, he skated on the left wing of Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. And he looks more comfortable by the day.

What seems to be working is a line shared with two workhorses who give Ribeiro the time to look up and make a play.

“He’s a guy that’s very creative,” said Tippett. “He makes a lot of plays and can find people going to the net.”

If that’s working, why not leave Ribeiro on a lower line and see if that ups his stats? With only seven games gone in the season, Tippett has a little time to experiment and the team has time to adjust.

“As your team kind of starts to evolve, we’ll see where things end up.”

Hopefully, for the Coyotes’ sake, Ribeiro gets it going and the puck starts ending up in their opponent’s net.