GLENDALE – The players on the Coyotes enjoy competing against the Chicago Blackhawks because, as many of them say, the defending Stanley Cup champs often bring out the best in them.
Forward Rob Klinkhammer agrees, but he also enjoys playing against the Blackhawks for a few personal reasons.
“I love it,” Klinkhammer said on Friday after being asked how he feels about squaring off against Chicago. “… It’s fun playing against your buddies. I played with a lot of those guys in the minors and I know a lot of them through (training) camps. It’s going to be fun.”
The Coyotes host Chicago on Saturday.
Klinkhammer, who was not drafted, signed with the Blackhawks organization as a free agent in 2007. He then played 308 games in Chicago's minor-league system – with AHL teams in Norfolk and Rockford - and one game for the Blackhawks before being traded to the Ottawa Senators in 2011.
Although he played just the one game for the Blackhawks, Klinkhammer looks back at his time with Chicago fondly.
“I got my first NHL contract from them and I was thankful for my time,” Klinkhammer said. “I developed my game, and I learned a lot about myself and the right way to play and how to be a pro there. It’s a great organization, through and through… I’ve got nothing bad to say about them. I’m thankful for them. But I want to get a win tomorrow.”
Klinkhammer has played against Chicago twice since the Blackhawks traded him to Ottawa in 2011, and he is averaging a point per game against them, with an assist in each of those games.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said defenseman Rostislav Klesla was recalled from the American Hockey League and practiced with the Coyotes on Friday because he needed to take care of some personal issues in the Phoenix area.
“I’ll have to talk to Don (Maloney), but the plan, I think, is still for him to go down and play some games in Portland (AHL) and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Tippett said after practice.
Jobing.com Arena will be packed on Saturday when the Coyotes host the Blackhawks.
Tippett said he expects the full building to provide extra motivation for his players. But, he said, there is something else motivating them more.
“We lost our first home game last week and we want to get back on a winning streak at home,” Tippett said. “It will be a very competitive game. We know a lot about their team and I think they know a lot about our team. It will be a fun game.”
Tippett said injured forward Lauri Korpikoski skated on his own before Friday’s practice. However, Korpikoski will not play on Saturday vs. Chicago. Neither will injured defenseman Zbynek Michalek, Tippett said.
The Coyotes ended Friday’s workout with shootout practice, and defenseman Keith Yandle was the only player not to score after numerous attempts.
A rumor quickly surfaced that because he lost the shootout contest, Yandle must now keep his "Movember" mustache beyond the month of November. Yandle started his post-practice Q & A with reporters by playfully killing that rumor.
"Nothing was at stake because (Shane Doan) wasn't out there,” Yandle said. “You can't have a contest if everyone's not involved. End of story.”
He added, “You will know that when you see my upper lip on Monday."
Doan missed Friday's practice to nurse a lower-body injury but he is expected to play on Saturday vs. Chicago.
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