GLENDALE – After taking the day off on Sunday, the Coyotes re-assembled at the Ice Den in Scottsdale on Monday morning for a lengthy practice. After the workout, the team headed to Sky Harbor Airport for their charter flight to Chicago where they will play Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Blackhawks on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
The teams split the first two games – both overtime affairs – played at Jobing.com Arena.
Captain Shane Doan
says the Coyotes are excited for the challenge of playing the next two games inside the United Center in front of 22,000-plus fans that will undoubtedly be rooting against them.
“It’s pretty good,” Doan said when I asked him to describe the team’s psyche after the dramatic loss in Game 2. “Obviously, we’re disappointed with giving up the goal late, but we talked about it at the beginning of the series - there’s up’s and down’s, and you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low.”
Doan notched 15 hits in the first two games. Many of those were delivered to Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
“It’s fun to be physical and fun to be able to go out there and battle and play hard,” Doan said. “I’m sure it’s going to get more and more. As you go through a series you start to get little personal battles going on where you want to make sure you win those.”
In other words, look for a few more Doan/Hjalmarsson collisions.
Regarding playing the next two in the “Madhouse on Madison,” Doan said: “It’ll be awesome. As a player you get up just as much, no matter if you’re a home team or a visiting team. You have a crowd that’s excited and energetic, just like our building, and it’s going to be similar and we expect it to be a lot of fun.”
Defenseman Keith Yandle
also is OK with the series shifting to Chicago. He says the Coyotes are a strong road team because of their solid team chemistry.
"It’s a great group of guys," Yandle said. "Especially playoff time, you spend a lot more time with each other, everyone is eating dinner together, you’re hanging out everyday. It’s a lot of fun (and) it’s something you look forward to. I know we’re all looking forward to getting on the road."
• Center Antoine Vermette
has been Phoenix’s most productive offensive player in the series thus far. Vermette, whom the Coyotes acquired in a deal with Columbus just before the trade deadline, has scored three goals on five shots.
Vermette, 29, is a seasoned postseason veteran; Game 3 on Tuesday will be his 45th game in the Stanley Cup Payoffs. He played nearly half of those games with Ottawa in 2007 when the Senators reached the Stanley Cup Final. In that season, Vermette notched two goals and three assists in 20 games, so just two games into this series he’s well on his way to shattering his career-high for playoff points in a season.
“At this time it’s about the team,” Vermette said Monday. “It doesn’t matter what you do personally, we’re 1-1 (in the series). You like to chip in in different ways, when you can score that’s nice, we can use that. But there’s some guys that are doing different things to help the team that doesn’t appear on the score sheet.”
• Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney has said repeatedly the Coyotes signed forward Raffi Torres
last summer because he knows how to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. So far, so good. Torres has chipped in a goal and an assist in the first two games while providing a physical presence with eight hits.
• Here are some eye-catching stats after two games:
- Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson
ranks fourth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in ice time per game at 29:36. Granted Games 1 and 2 were overtime games, but it’s still a pretty impressive ranking for a 20-year-old making his debut in the playoffs.
- Center Daymond Langkow
ranks fifth in the playoffs in faceoff winning percentage at 64.0 percent.
- The Coyotes have blocked 44 shots.
• And finally, I’m guessing we’re all going to see actor Vince Vaughn on TV in a seat near the glass during Game 3 and/or Game 4 at the United Center. Vaughn, of course, is a huge hockey/Blackhawks fans.
I will never forget walking into the Coyotes dressing room after they beat the Dallas Stars on Nov. 27, 2009 and being shocked to see Vaughn mingling with the coaches and players. Vaughn was in the Valley that night and incorporated the game into his plans. Doan, Head Coach Dave Tippett and many of the players took time to chat with him and pose for pictures.
►EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.